What is diabetic macrovascular disease?

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Macrovascular diabetes diseases

Macrovascular complications of diabetes are those that affect the large blood vessels. Diabetes damages the lining of blood vessels, causing them to narrow, which decreases the blood supply and eventually causes injury to the affected area.

  • When blood vessels that supply the brain and heart are affected, a stroke or heart attack may occur.
  • When the large blood vessels in the legs are affected, problems with blood circulation to the legs and feet may develop, causing changes in skin color, decreased sensation, and leg cramps (peripheral arterial disease).

Keeping blood sugar levels within a target blood sugar range may help prevent macrovascular problems.

Keeping your heart healthy when you have diabetes

Managing your diabetes and keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy are both important. Here are some things you can do.

  • Test your blood sugar levels and get your diabetes tests on schedule.

    Try to keep your numbers within your target range.

  • Keep track of your blood pressure.

    Your doctor will give you a goal that's right for you. If your blood pressure is high, your treatment may also include medicine. Changes in your lifestyle, such as staying at a healthy weight, may also help you lower your blood pressure.

  • Eat heart-healthy foods.

    These include vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans, lean meat, fish, and whole grains. Limit sodium, alcohol, and sugar.

  • Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to learn which exercises are safe for you.

    Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.

  • Don't smoke.

    Smoking can make diabetes worse and increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

  • Take medicines as directed by your doctor.

    For example, your doctor may suggest taking a statin or daily aspirin. Some diabetes medicine can also lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.

What increases your risk for heart attack and stroke if you have diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your risk for heart attack and stroke is even higher if you have:

  • High blood pressure. It pushes blood through the arteries with too much force. Over time, this damages the walls of the arteries.
  • High cholesterol. It causes the buildup of a kind of fat inside the blood vessel walls. This buildup can lower blood flow to the heart muscle and raise your risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
  • Kidney damage. It shares many of the risk factors for heart attack and stroke (such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol).

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