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How to lower your heart disease risk

Having type 2 diabetes increases the risk of developing heart disease, or cardiovascular disease1-3. Because of this link, there are many things you can do to lower your risk of heart disease by managing your type 2 diabetes.

Unsure where to start? Download our conversation guide to know more.

Follow a balanced diet

The higher your body mass index (BMI), the greater the likelihood of developing heart disease risk factors4. If you are overweight, try to get down to a healthy weight.

Eating foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar and salt can increase your risk of heart disease5. Following a balanced diet can help you better manage your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and weight, which are all risk factors of heart disease.

Try to eat:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Wholegrain options of bread, pasta and rice
  • Some fish, meat and eggs and other non-dairy sources of proteins
  • Less red meat and more fish
  • Some dairy products, such as milk and cheese
  • Limited amounts of fatty and sugary foods and drinks

Try to avoid:

  • Foods that are high in salt, which can increase your blood pressure5
  • Foods and beverages with a lot of added sugar6
  • Food with high levels of saturated fat (commonly found in animal products) and trans fats (typically found in fried food, cakes and sweet treats), especially in large amounts5
  • Large amounts of alcohol5

Get active

In addition to following a balanced diet, increasing your level of physical activity can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight7.

Physical activity can help improve the following conditions, which also helps reduce your risk of developing heart disease:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood lipid (blood fat) levels
  • The health of your heart and blood vessels
  • The ability to use insulin to lower your blood sugar

Diabetes experts recommend doing aerobic exercise (raising your heart and breathing rate) for a total of 150 minutes each week.

Stop smoking

Stopping smoking is one way to cut your risk of developing heart disease and improve your overall health8. In fact, 11 years after you stop, your risk will be the same as that of a person with type 2 diabetes who does not smoke9.

There are many support programmes available to help you stop smoking for good. Talk to your doctor about ways to help you stop smoking to reduce your heart disease risk.

When diet and exercise are not enough, you may need to take medication to manage your type 2 diabetes10. It is important to take your medication as agreed with your doctor to manage your blood sugar levels over time, while also helping to prevent any potential damage to your blood vessels. Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease and managing it today will help you in the long-term.

Take your diabetes medications as agreed with your doctor

Monitor and record your blood sugar levels

Regularly monitoring and recording your blood sugar levels is one way to effectively control your type 2 diabetes, while also managing your overall heart disease risk6. Try using a diabetes monitoring diary to record your blood sugar levels.

In addition, it is important that you visit your doctor regularly to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. This will help you and your doctor better manage your overall risk of heart disease.

Talk to your doctor about heart disease

Your doctor can help you identify which lifestyle choices and treatments can benefit your type 2 diabetes and lower your risk for heart attack and stroke. Print out this quick guide to get an idea of the right questions you can ask your doctor at your next scheduled appointment.

  1. Martín-Timón I, Sevillano-Collantes C, Segura-Galindo A, et al. Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease: Have all risk factors the same strength? World J Diabetes. 2014;5:444-470. 
  2. Lüscher TF, Creager MA, Beckman JA, et al. Diabetes and vascular disease: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, and medical therapy: Part II. Circulation. 2003;108:1655-1661. 
  3. Marso SP, Nauck MA, Monk Fries T, et al. Myocardial Infarction Subtypes in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and the Effect of Liraglutide Therapy (from the LEADER Trial). Am J Cardiol. 2018;121:1467-1470. 
  4. Held, et al. Body Mass Index and Association With Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients With Stable Coronary Heart Disease – A STABILITY Substudy. JAHA. 2022; 11. 
  5. CDC. Know Your Risk for Heart Disease. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm#:~:text=Eating%20a%20diet%20high%20in,diet%20can%20raise%20blood%20pressure. Last accessed: March 2024. 
  6. Diabetes UK. Diabetes and Heart Disease. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/cardiovascular_disease. Last accessed: March 2024.
  7. CDC. Benefits of Physical Activity. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm#:~:text=To%20maintain%20your%20weight%3A%20Work,they%20need%20for%20weight%20management. Last accessed: March 2024. 
  8. Gallucci G, et al. Cardiovascular risk of smoking and benefits of smoking cessation. J Thorac Dis. 2020 Jul;12(7):3866-3876. 
  9. Maddatu J, Anderson-Baucum E, Evans-Molina C. Smoking and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Transl Res. 2017 Jun;184:101-107. 
  10. Committee ADAPP. 9. Pharmacologic Approaches to Glycemic Treatment: Standards of Care in Diabetes—2024. Diabetes Care. 2023;47:S158-S178. doi: 10.2337/dc24-S009



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