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Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart disease and stroke are two to four times more common in people with diabetes. They can also strike at a younger age in people with diabetes. By getting daily physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and taking your prescribed medication, you will decrease your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients through out your body. Your blood also contains cholesterol and sugar (known as glucose). Cholesterol known as LDL builds up and forms plaque in the walls of your arties.

High blood glucose levels increase the rate of plaque build-up, causing the inside of the artery to become narrow and hard.

Plaque can cause damage in two ways. It narrows your arteries, decreasing the blood flow to the rest of your body, and sometimes it breaks off and causes a blood clot. A blood clot can completely block blood flow to a part of your body. When blood flow is cut off from the heart, it causes a heart attack. When blood flow to the brain is blocked, it results in a stroke.

The good news is that you can control several of the risk factors that lead to heart disease or stroke. The first risk factor is abdominal obesity. This is a waist measurement of more than 102 centimeters in men and 88 centimeters in women. This measurement guideline can differ according to your race so check with your health care provider to determine what is appropriate for you. By losing 5 to 10 per cent of the fat around your waist, you will reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The second factor you can control is your blood cholesterol. There are two sources of cholesterol - the first is produced by your liver, and the second comes from the food you eat. Eating fatty foods can raise your cholesterol level, but your body does require certain "good" fats.

A simple way to look at this is to break fats down into bad fats and good fats. Fats that come from animals and some vegetable oils are often considered bad fat. These fats can quickly build up in your arteries, increasing your chances of a heart attack or stroke.

Your body does require some fat small amounts of good fats. Small amounts of good fats such as nuts, seeds and oily fish are part of a healthy diet, but they should be consumed in moderation.

The third risk factor you can control is your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure monitored regularly and work with your doctor to maintain a reading of 130 over 80. High blood pressure is called hypertension. Hypertension causes your heart to work harder to pump blood. This puts a strain on the heart and blood vessels, and can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, eye problems and kidney problems.

The fourth risk factor you can control is smoking. Smoking greatly increases the risks associated with diabetes, increasing blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and some types of cholesterol. Smoking can heighten your risk of kidney and nerve damage, heart attack, stroke, and infections, and can cause erectile dysfunction.

It is important to have your doctor regularly monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition to healthy eating, leading an active lifestyle and taking medications suggested by your health care provider, it can help lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Last modified: 2012-03-06