Healthy Choices Can Lower Diabetes Risk of Stroke, Heart Disease

Finding out you have diabetes is a shock in itself. It requires a lot of changes in your life. But at the same time you're learning you have it, the doctor starts talking about all the scary risk factors that come along with diabetes, among the worst: heart disease and stroke. Eye on Health asked a Las Vegas internist how that affects treatment.

A survey of diabetics found more than half were unaware they had an increased risk of stroke. When in fact, the overall risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is 2-and-a-half times higher for diabetics. 

In this week's Dealing with Diabetes report, a local specialist said healthy lifestyle choices are an effective form of prevention.

More than 150,000 stroke-related deaths are reported each year. High blood pressure, smoking, and high LDL cholesterol are all risk factors. And Las Vegas internist, Mark McKenzie says that when you add diabetes to the mix, the risk of stroke is even higher. For that reason, diabetics generally have lower goals for blood pressure and cholesterol.

"The fact is, when you have a risk factor like diabetes, which increases your risk for heart attack and stroke, we want to control your other risks as well," said Dr. McKenzie. "So the blood pressure ranges that may be acceptable for a non-diabetic patient are not acceptable for diabetics."

Dr. McKenzie says diabetes and stroke often have common denominators that promote blockage in the arteries -- including inactivity, an unhealthy diet, and being overweight.

"Just a little bit of weight loss, as much as 7%, just 15 lbs. for men, maybe 7, 8, or 10 lbs. for women can reduce your risk of stroke by 16% for every two lbs. that you lose. So it's really important for our diabetic patients to lose weight," said Dr. McKenzie.

Going the extra mile in managing your diabetes can go along way toward preventing a stroke down the road.

"We want to encourage all our diabetics to get to the goals they're looking for," said Dr. McKenzie. "Tight blood sugar control, very low cholesterol, excellent blood pressure. These things do make a real difference and there's tons of research to support that."
 
Limiting your alcohol consumption may also help you avoid a stroke, whether you're diabetic or not. 

For more on this subject, including the symptoms of stroke, click here.


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