MountainStar Health - January 19, 2018

Having diabetes doesn’t have to stop you from living a full, active life.

But even if your diabetes is under control, you still need to understand how it could affect your heart health.

People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die of heart disease than those without the condition, the American Heart Association says. Why? The extra glucose in their bloodstream can damage arteries, causing them to stiffen and harden and even get clogged up with a fatty material called plaque. Clogged arteries block normal blood flow to the heart or brain, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke.

When a heart attack strikes, people expect warning signs like shortness of breath and chest pain that radiates to the arms, shoulders, neck, jaw or back. But if you have diabetes, you may not experience these symptoms due to nerve damage in or around the heart. This damage can mask heart pain, which raises your risk of having a “silent heart attack.

To reduce your heart disease risk, follow these steps:

Control your blood pressure and cholesterol. Ask your doctor how often you should check your cholesterol and blood pressure. If you’re prescribed medication to lower your levels, be sure to follow dosing instructions.

Move for 30 minutes day. Increasing physical activity helps control blood pressure, blood sugar and weight.

Choose heart-healthy foods. Avoid unhealthy fats by replacing red meat with lean proteins. Skip processed foods and fill up on fruit, veggies and whole grains. A registered dietitian can help you plan meals that keep blood sugar levels in a safe range.