Diabetes, Heart Disease, and You

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Diabetes is a common disease that is on the rise in America. Having diabetes raises your risk for developing other dangerous conditions, especially heart disease and stroke. November is National Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness about preventing and managing diabetes and protecting yourself from its complications.

Diabetes is a serious condition that happens when your body can’t make enough of a hormone called insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it has. Insulin helps your body digest sugars that come from what you eat and drink. Without enough insulin, sugar builds up in your blood. Over time, that sugar buildup damages your nerves, blood vessels, heart, and kidneys.

More than 29 million Americans have diabetes, or about 1 of every 11 people. 1 About 8 million of them don’t know they have diabetes. Another 86 million—more than 1 in 3 Americans older than 20 years—have prediabetes, a condition in which a person’s blood sugar is high, but not yet high enough to trigger diabetes.2

Most people with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. Adults with type 2 diabetes are about twice as likely to die from heart disease as adults who do not have diabetes.3

Share your story, photo, or video on social media this National Diabetes Month using these hashtags: #ThisIsDiabetes #diabetes #StopDiabetes #Prediabetes #WorldDiabetesDay #Type2Diabetes

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Making healthy lifestyle changes, such as choosing healthy foods and getting active, can help you prevent or control diabetes and lower your chances of getting heart disease and stroke.

Surprising Facts About Diabetes

  • Women with diabetes have a 40% greater risk of developing heart disease and a 25% greater risk of stroke than men with diabetes do.5 Experts aren’t sure why the risk is so much greater in women with diabetes than in men with diabetes. Women’s biology may play a role: Women usually have more body fat, which can put them at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. If you are a woman with diabetes, you can take steps to control your condition and improve your chances for avoiding heart disease and stroke (see below).
  • Almost 7 in 10 people with diabetes over age 65 will die of some type of heart disease. About 1 in 6 will die of stroke.6 People with diabetes have very high blood sugar, which causes damage to nerves and blood vessels. Over time, this can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and even blindness. People with diabetes are more likely to develop and die from heart disease or stroke.7
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading killer of Americans. In 2014, more than 76,000 people in the United States died from diabetes.6 But diabetes often contributes to deaths from other causes, including heart disease, the leading killer of Americans. On average, a 50-year-old with diabetes will die six years earlier than someone without diabetes.1
  • Type 2 diabetes among young people is on the rise. So is obesity.1 Type 2 diabetes was once thought to be a condition that developed only in older adults. Now, because obesity is common at all ages, type 2 diabetes is becoming a problem for people of all ages. This includes children and especially children of certain racial and ethnic groups, such as blacks and Hispanics. Young people with diabetes are typically overweight or obese and have a family history of diabetes. Young people who have prediabetes or diabetes are more likely to develop other disorders, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

You Can Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Take the following steps to lower your risk of diabetes:

Reach a healthy weight. Research shows that losing even a small amount of weight by exercising and making healthy eating choices can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes in people with high risk.7 Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you.

Stay physically active. Physical activity helps keeps your blood vessels healthy and your weight under control. Adults should aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week (or about 30 minutes per day on most days) of moderate-intensity physical activityexternal icon, such as brisk walking or cycling. Children should get at least an hour of physical activity each day. Remember: Any physical activity is better than none. For more information, see the Division on Diabetes Translation’s Be Active! page.

Choose healthy foods. Choose fiber-rich foods, such as fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat. Learn more about good nutrition choices from CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. You can also find a diabetes educatorexternal icon who can help you create a meal plan.

Quit smoking. If you have diabetes and use tobacco, your risk of heart and blood vessel problems is even greater. Smoking raises your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Quitting smoking will lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve damage, and kidney disease. Learn more at CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign™ .

Take your medicine as directed. It is important that you take any medicine you have been prescribed for your diabetes, such as medicine to control your blood sugar, as directed. You may also need to take medicine for related conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Watch videos of real people to learn what others are doing to prevent diabetes.


  1. Mozaffarian D, Benjamin EJ, Go AS, Arnett DK, Blaha MJ, Cushman M, et al. (2016). Heart disease and stroke statistics—2016 update. A report from the American Heart Associationexternal icon. Circulation; 133(4): e38–360.
  2. American Diabetes Association. (2016). Statistics about diabetesexternal icon.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). National diabetes statistics report: estimates of diabetes and its burden in the United States, 2014 pdf icon[5.3 MB]. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Number (in millions) of civilian, non-institutionalized persons with diagnosed diabetes, United States, 1980-2014.
  5. Peters SA, Huxley RR, Woodward M. (2014). Diabetes as risk factor for incident coronary heart disease in women compared with men: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 64 cohorts including 858,507 individuals and 28,203 coronary eventsexternal icon. Diabetologia; 57(8):1542–51.
  6. Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Xu J, Tejada-Vera B. (2016). Deaths: final data for 2014 pdf icon[4.3 MB]. Nat Vital Stat Rep;65(4):1–122.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Preventing diabetes.
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