If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, your risk of developing heart disease is more than double that of the general population, according to American Heart Association. However, with proper self-care, you can significantly reduce the risk factors that may lead to heart disease.
Making the following six habits part of your regular routine is a great way to help prevent the development of heart disease like heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve damage.
1. Plan healthy meals
One of the most important steps you can take to manage diabetes and lower your risk of heart disease is to improve your diet. Whenever possible, reduce or cut out sodium, trans fat, saturated fat, and added sugars from your meals.
Try to make sure that every meal you eat has a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, starches, fats, and protein. Choose lean, skinless meats like poultry and fish over fatty red meat, and avoid fried foods as a general rule. Always go for whole-grain options when buying bread and pasta, and choose low-fat cheese and milk products when shopping in the dairy aisle.
2. Stay physically active
Another key way to manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of developing heart disease is to stay physically active. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that every adult get at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. That could include going for a brisk walk or riding your bike around the neighborhood.
The CDC also recommends doing at least two nonconsecutive days of strength training every week, during which you work out all of your major muscle groups. Be sure to train your arms, legs, hips, shoulders, chest, back, and abs. Talk to your doctor about which types of exercise might be best suited to your specific fitness needs.
3. Take time to de-stress
High levels of stress increase your risk of high blood pressure, which significantly ups your odds of developing heart disease.
If you typically experience a lot of stress or anxiety, you should make stress-reduction exercises like deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation a part of your daily routine. These simple techniques only take a few minutes and can be done almost anywhere. They can also make a huge difference when you’re feeling particularly stressed out or anxious.
4. Log your levels
Taking a few minutes every day to check your blood sugar and blood pressure levels and record the results is a helpful habit. Home monitors for both your blood glucose and blood pressure are available online and at most pharmacies. The cost may be covered by your health insurance provider.
Try your best to check your levels according to your doctor’s instructions, and note your results in a journal or a spreadsheet. Bring this log to your next medical appointment and ask your doctor to review the data with you to assess your progress.
5. Watch your weight
According to the CDC, more than one third of American adults are overweight or obese. Obesity is a common risk factor for heart disease. It’s also directly related to high blood pressure, and poorly managed cholesterol and blood sugar.
If you’re unsure whether your weight would be considered in the range of overweight or obese, you can take steps to find out. Do a quick search for Body Mass Index (BMI) calculators online and type in your height and weight. A BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 falls within the overweight range. A BMI of 30.0 or more is considered obese.
Note that BMI calculators don’t work for everyone, but they can give you a sense of whether you should talk to your doctor. If you fall within either of these ranges, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about whether you would benefit from a weight-loss plan.
6. Communicate with your doctor
Your doctor is the most valuable resource you have for information and advice on how to best manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Get into the habit of scheduling appointments with your doctor at least twice a year, regardless of whether or not you feel they’re necessary. Regular checkups will help your doctor monitor your glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. It will also give you an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about diabetes and heart disease.
Building healthy lifestyle habits and maintaining good communication with your doctor are important aspects of managing your risk for heart disease. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your doctor about things like your weight, your diet, or your exercise routine. The more honest you are, the easier it will be for your doctor to give you valuable feedback about your health.