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Diabetes and heart health

The link between diabetes and heart health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Additionally, people with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke. But by understanding the relationship between heart disease and diabetes and making healthy changes to your habits, you can lower your risk of heart disease.

diabetes and heart healthHow diabetes increases the risk of heart disease

The CDC states that people who have diabetes should watch for these conditions, which increase the risk of heart disease:

  • High blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart
  • High blood pressure, which increases the force of blood through your arteries and can damage artery walls
  • High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can form plaque on artery walls and decrease the blood flow to your heart and brain
  • High triglycerides and low HDL (good) cholesterol may also contribute to the hardening of arteries and decreased blood flow

Monitor your heart health

As a Blue Cross of Idaho member, you have access to many heart health-related tests and screenings at little or no cost to you as part of your preventive care benefits. Additionally, knowing your ABCs can help you lower your risk of heart disease and manage diabetes:

A is for A1C

An A1C test is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. Knowing your blood sugar level over time can help you avoid damage to your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet and eyes.

The ideal A1C level is below 7.

B is for blood pressure

Blood pressure is the force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels. If your blood pressure is too high, your heart will work too hard and you could have a heart attack, stroke or damage your kidneys and eyes. The ideal blood pressure level for most people is below 140/90.

Ask your doctor what your goal should be.

C is for cholesterol

There are two kinds of cholesterol:

  • LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
  • HDL or “good” cholesterol helps to remove the LDL cholesterol from your blood vessels.

Talk to your doctor about what your goal cholesterol levels should be.

Lower your risk of heart disease

Here are some tips from the American Diabetes Association on how you can prevent or manage heart disease, as well as manage diabetes:

Stay active

You can help your body be more sensitive to insulin by being active. Exercise also helps keep your blood sugar levels in check. Aim for 150 minutes (two-and-a-half hours) of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

Eat a well-balanced diet

Avoid fad diets and instead eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of protein, healthy fats, whole grains and vegetables. Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary beverages.

Keep a healthy weight

Losing weight can help you lower your triglycerides and blood sugar. Losing even 10-15 pounds can make a difference.

Manage stress

Keep your stress level low by finding activities that can help you relieve stress, such as meditating or a hobby that brings you joy. Lots of stress can lead to high blood pressure, so lowering stress can help you manage diabetes, too.

Find a doctor

Your primary care provider (PCP) can play an important role in helping you manage diabetes and heart health. If you don’t have a PCP, you can search for one using our member app and our Find Care tool. Make sure you’re logged in so that you only see providers in your network.


Posted: February 8, 2023