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Diabetes and heart disease: They don't have to go together

You may have heard that diabetes and heart disease often go hand-in-hand. But it's also true that they don't have to. There are many things you can do to protect your heart. Before that, however, let's start by understanding why people with diabetes are often at higher risk. While diabetes on its own is a risk factor for heart disease, it appears that diabetes and other risk factors such as smoking and obesity work together to raise risk even further.1

But wait—there's good news!

Taking good care of yourself—the way you deserve—can seriously reduce your risk of complications. Intensive blood sugar management, for example, can reduce your risk or heart attack or stroke by an amazing 42%.2 Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol can knock your risk down even more.2

You can also check out Mike Durbin's My Diabetic Heart site, where he talks about being diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease at the same time, and the challenges of managing both.

You can also think about ways to take better care of your heart. Start with a low-fat, low-salt dinner (try these ideas from Eating Well) and go for a leisurely walk. It'll help you feel good now and in the future.

Know the warning signs

Even if you're not at heightened risk, you never know when someone you love, someone you know or even just someone you're sitting next to at a restaurant may run into trouble.

As a public service we've listed the symptoms of a heart attack and stroke below, compliments of the American Heart Association.3

Heart attack symptoms

Symptoms vary widely between people, so don't second-guess yourself. If you see any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1.

  • Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back; People describe it as pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain that may come on slowly—not necessarily the way it's portrayed in the movies
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, which may occur before chest discomfort
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

Especially for women

While chest discomfort is the most common symptom for women and men, women are more likely to experience other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, or back or jaw pain.

Stroke symptoms

A stroke can cause the sudden onset of any of the following:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in 1 or both eyes
  • Dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

New treatments can stop heart attacks and strokes as they occur, but you have to act fast! Don't hesitate—call 9-1-1.

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1National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. What is diabetic heart disease?. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2019.

2National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. DCCT and EDIC: The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial and follow-up study. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2019.

3American Heart Association. Warning signs of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2019.

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