Preventing Diabetic Heart and Blood Vessel Complications

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Preventing Diabetic Heart and Blood Vessel Complications

Topic Overview

You can help prevent diabetic heart and blood vessel complications by eliminating or treating as many of your risk factors for atherosclerosis and high blood pressure (hypertension) as possible.

Risk factors for atherosclerosis

Risk factors for hypertension

  • High-sodium diet
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Kidney problems
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks a day for men or 1 drink a day for women)

Diabetes and these risk factors

Diabetes contributes to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) because it increases the buildup of plaque. The best way to prevent hardening of your arteries is to address all risk factors. Controlling your blood sugar levels as much as possible will also help prevent the acceleration of atherosclerosis.

High blood pressure increases your risk for stroke and atherosclerosis. You can lower blood pressure with lifestyle changes and medicine.

Treatments to prevent heart and blood vessel complications from diabetes

Lifestyle changes


  • Reduce salt intake.
  • Lose weight.
  • Get plenty of exercise. (Each week, exercise for at least 150 minutes spread over at least 3 days that are not in a row. Or, if you can, get more than 4 hours each week.The Canadian Diabetes Association suggests that you include resistance exercises in your program. Resistance exercises can include activities like weight lifting or even yard work.)
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Increase potassium and calcium intake.
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Beta-blockers
  • Diuretics
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers
  • Other vasodilators
  • Centrally acting agents

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Caroline S. Rhoads, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Last Revised February 24, 2010

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