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Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Did you know…

  • Cardiovascular disease is the most common complication of diabetes?
  • People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have cardiovascular disease?
  • 65 percent of those with diabetes die of a heart attack or stroke?

The good news is that complications of diabetes, including cardiovascular complications, are preventable by seeing your primary care provider for regular check-ups and living a healthy lifestyle. The diabetes treatment plan includes a healthy way of eating, regular physical activity, taking medications as prescribed by your primary provider and checking your blood sugar regularly to make sure the treatment plan is working.

Eating healthy for diabetes and cardiovascular disease prevention does not have to be complicated. Small changes over time can make a big difference in your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

  • Choose lean proteins, such as fish, chicken or turkey without the skin, pork loin, pork tenderloin and lean cuts of beef (extra lean ground meat, round steak, sirloin steak). Choosing fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as tuna or salmon, is recommended at least twice weekly.
  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at lunch and dinner, such as carrots, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower, salad or cooked greens.
  • Choose smaller portions of fiber-rich carbohydrate foods, such as whole-grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, corn tortillas, beans and fresh fruit.
  • Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk and choose light yogurt.
  • Choose healthy fats, such as a small amount of nuts, almond butter, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, ground flax or chia seeds.
  • Drink low-calorie, sugar-free beverages.

Physical activity strengthens muscles, your heart and blood vessels as well as improves circulation, lowers blood pressure and lowers blood sugar. The recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (brisk walk, bike riding, swimming) most days of the week. If you are new to physical activity, start with about 10 to 15 minutes to prevent injury. You can increase your time to a goal of 30 minutes daily over three to four weeks.

Medicine is an important aspect of managing high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Take your medicine as prescribed. Report any side effects or difficulty affording medicine to your primary care provider, so your treatment plan can be adjusted to meet your needs.

Monitoring is the best way to see if your treatment plan is working between visits to your primary care provider. It is recommended that you monitor your blood sugar on a regular basis to make sure blood sugars are staying at goal. Ask your primary care provider for blood sugar goals, when to check your blood sugar and when to call the office about blood sugars below or above goals. If you have high blood pressure, monitoring your blood pressure to make sure it is well controlled can be vital in preventing stroke and heart attacks.

For more information about diabetes and heart disease, contact Diabetes University at 903-535-6354 or visit


Information provided by Marci Wright, MS, RD/LD, CDE, Diabetes Educator, UT Health – Tyler.