The ABCs of heart disease and diabetes

Learn how watching your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol can help you reduce your risk of heart problems and manage your diabetes

Type 2 diabetes comes with a hefty to-do list, including checking blood sugar, taking medication, choosing healthy foods, moving every day, and more. The list can seem endless. It can be a lot to handle but consider this: Every step you take to manage your diabetes is also linked with improving heart health. And that’s an important – and powerful – payoff. 

People with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But  those complications aren’t inevitable. When you follow the ABCs of heart health and diabetes, you can help keep your heart strong and your diabetes in check. 

A is for A1C

Aim for an A1C below 7%.  

Get a blood glucose, or an A1C test twice a year (sometimes more).  For most people, the goal is an A1C result below 7%. That’s because when A1C inches above 7%, the risk for heart-related and other complications rises. 


B is for blood pressure 

Bring your blood pressure to 130/80 or under. 

High blood pressure means the heart has to work harder to do its job. Having both diabetes and high blood pressure can greatly increase your risk for heart disease, so it is just as important as diabetes to manage.   

The American Heart Association suggests a goal blood pressure of 130/80, or an individual target set by you and your doctor .


C is for cholesterol

Check your LDL Cholesterol and keep it below 100 mg/dL

LDL (low-density lipoproteins), often known as the “bad” cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries. When this happens, it can block blood flow to the heart (causing a heart attack) or the brain (causing a stroke). For most people, the goal is an LDL below 100 mg/dL . Talk to your healthcare team about what the best goal is for you.1


S is for smoking.  Don’t start smoking or better yet, quit smoking.

Smoking increases the chance you will have a heart attack, stroke or develop cancer. 
While that can sound scary, there are medications and lifestyle changes to help prevent heart attack or stroke. In fact, some of those changes are healthy habits you may be doing already.

Take heart and diabetes medications
Along with your type 2 diabetes, take blood pressure and/or cholesterol-lowering medications as prescribed. The American Diabetes Association recommends that most adults with diabetes take statins to lower their cholesterol. It’s important to take medications even when you feel good because high blood pressure and cholesterol often have no signs or symptoms.

Make heart healthy food choices
Heart healthy eating means eating foods that can lower your risk of heart disease. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, lean meat, nuts, fish, and whole grains.  Limit the amount of meat and fried or fatty foods that you eat. Learn a few quick and easy heart-healthy swaps to make in your diet

Get moving
You don’t need to join a fancy gym or do long strenuous activities to get your heart pumping.  Just 30 minutes for at least 5 days a week can make a big difference.  Read on to find a few surprising ways to get more daily exercise

Want to take the guesswork out of healthy lifestyle changes for your heart?  Try Wellvolution for proven programs to help you quit smoking, lose weight, treat diabetes and more.

Page Last Updated 06/04/2024
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