Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are two chronic conditions that are closely linked and have a significant impact on a person's health. Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, includes conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. It is the leading cause of death globally, and people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to those without diabetes. This is because high blood sugar levels in diabetes can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart and blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis, or the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. In addition, diabetes also increases the risk of other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and obesity. To reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, individuals with diabetes must manage their blood sugar levels effectively and adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity, a balanced diet, and not smoking. Regular check-ups and proper management of both conditions can greatly improve the overall health outcomes for individuals living with diabetes and reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

Here are five simple steps people living with diabetes can take to keep an eye on their health:
Have a heart-healthy diet: Try to avoid saturated and trans fats that can increase cholesterol levels. For instance, saturated fats are commonly found in foods like butter, red meat, and full-fat dairy products, while trans fats are often present in partially hydrogenated oils used in fried and processed foods.

Finding a healthy meal plan that works for you can help improve your health. You can do that by opting for a meal plan rich in lean proteins, whole grains, colourful vegetables, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds.

Regular exercise: To lower the risk of heart disease, it's advisable to address factors such as obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol levels through exercise. Regular physical activity also helps you manage your diabetes better. For a healthy lifestyle, it's

recommended to minimise sitting time and engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, such as brisk walking or cycling.

Regularly monitor blood sugar levels: Real-time tracking, such as through CGM tools like FreeStyle Libre, can help you keep an eye on any blood sugar highs or lows. It's important to strive to stay within the optimal glucose range (70 - 180 mg/dl) for at least 17 hours out of the day. By doing this, you can effectively control your diabetes and heart disease risk.

Say no to smoking and drinking: Smoking can damage the lining of your blood vessels which in turn accelerates the narrowing of your arteries caused by diabetes. This increases your risk of heart disease. If you have diabetes and smoke, this risk of heart health effects increases further - making it important to quit smoking.

You should also lower your alcohol intake as it can disrupt the effect of your diabetes medication and affect your blood sugar levels. Excessive drinking can also increase one’s blood pressure, weaken heart muscles, and amplify the risk of certain heart diseases. You can work out an alcohol limit with your doctor.

Stress management: When you are stressed, your body produces stress hormones that boost your blood sugar levels and can cause insulin resistance. Over time, this can raise your blood pressure and increase your chances of developing heart disease.

To ease your stress, try engaging in fun activities like listening to music, yoga or dance. Additionally, spending time with loved ones or discussing what you are going through with a professional could ease stress levels.

In addition to these tips, people with diabetes should remain alert to any concerning trends of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia and take care to address these immediately. You should also consult your doctor about other steps you should take to improve your diabetes management and protect your heart health.

By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can benefit from better health outcomes and enjoy a higher quality of life.
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