9 Heart-Healthy Tips for Diabetics


Did you know diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease?

If you have diabetes, you’re 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease than someone who doesn’t have trouble with regulating blood sugar levels, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Here’s another reason to pay attention…Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes.

Wondering what you can do to keep your heart healthy and manage blood sugar levels?

Make these 9 heart-healthy habits part of your lifestyle:

1. Check your blood sugar levels.

You can do this on your own with a finger-prick test and blood glucose monitor. But it’s also important to see your doctor for a fasting blood glucose test or A1C test to measure your blood sugar levels over time.

  • Basic blood tests can also measure cholesterol and triglycerides used to measure heart disease risk.

2. Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to.

Did you know an estimated 74 percent of adults are overweight or obese? It’s one reason 37 million adults have diabetes, and 96 million have prediabetes. Even losing a few pounds and keeping it off can make a difference.

3. Eat diabetic-friendly meals

Here’s what this looks like. Most of your meals should come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish and lean meats. Avoid or limit sugary treats, drinks, and alcohol.

4. Eat healthy fats.

FYI…fast food burgers, fries, pizza, processed meats, and many processed foods contain bad fat. The kind of fat that can block arteries and increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke.

  • Healthy fats include foods like avocado, nuts and seeds, fish, and olive oil.

5. Add for fiber-rich foods to your diet

Whole-grain foods help control blood sugar levels, improve digestion, and help control cholesterol levels linked to heart disease.

Foods high in fiber include:

  • Whole-grain cereal, bread, oatmeal and pasta
  • Legumes
  • Leafy greens like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale
  • Berries
  • Apples

6. Limit sodium

How much sodium do you consume on a typical day?

If your diet looks anything like the typical American’s, you’re getting about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. And that’s too much, according to the American Heart Association.

  • Aim for 2,300 mg of sodium or less per day. 1,500 mg or less if you already have high blood pressure.

7. Be more active

Exercise can help burn calories and support weight loss and weight management. It’s also an effective way to burn carbohydrates for energy to help control blood sugar levels. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. It’s as easy as going for a walk.

8. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do.

Smoking is a direct cause of type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Smoking causes inflammation that can interfere with insulin production and cause cell damage.

9. Manage stress in healthy ways.

Stressed out? You might be tempted to eat junk food, go for second or thirds, or eat late at night even when you’re not hungry. Don’t do that, OK.

Instead, find healthy ways to manage stress. Go for a walk. Write in a journal. Work with a counselor or therapist. Spend time on a hobby you enjoy.

You’ll feel better. You’ll keep blood sugar levels in check. And your heart will be healthier.