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Diabetes and Heart Health: Tips for Success

Steps you take to improve heart health also help keep diabetes in check

Heart Tip Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

According to the American Diabetes Association, individuals with diabetes are approximately twice as likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than others. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death for individuals with diabetes.

“While these statistics may be shocking, it’s important to know that there are a lot of things you can do to maintain or improve your heart health,” says Lynne Garris, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with the Diabetes Self-Management Education Program at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Pocono. “There are also symptoms you should be aware of and seek immediate care for if you experience them.”

What to watc​​​​​​​h out for

If you are experiencing any of the following, it is best to go to the closest emergency room for evaluation:

Signs of a heart attack

  • Chest pain that feels like pressure or squeezing in the center or left side of your chest
  • Upper body discomfort, such as pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness

Signs of a stroke

  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Problems with vision such as dimness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Dizziness or problems with balance or coordination
  • Problems with movement or walking
  • Severe headache with no known cause

While it’s important to seek immediate care for these symptoms, they may be a sign of other less serious conditions.

It’s also important to know that heart disease starts well before major cardiac events.

“There are some conditions that develop over time and can lead to a heart attack, heart failure or a stroke in time,” Garris says. “That’s why it’s best to take steps to reduce your risk for heart disease and improve your risk factors as soon as you can.”

“Making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle can be challenging, but in the end, if you feel better and are at less risk for serious illness, it’s worth it,” says Lynne Garris, registered dietitian.

Heart healthy tips

There are many things you can do to prevent or slow the progression of heart disease, including:

  • Getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a diet that is full of vegetables and fruits
  • Managing your stress, which can help keep your blood pressure in a normal range
  • Getting six to eight hours of sleep per day
  • Taking any medications prescribed by your doctor as directed
  • Quitting smoking
  • Seeing your doctor regularly to have your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked

“Taking these steps will not only help your heart – they will also keep your diabetes in check and help you improve your health overall” Garris says. “Making a commitment to a healthy lifestyle can be challenging, but in the end, if you feel better and are at less risk for serious illness, it’s worth it.”

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