Diabetes and Heart Disease: How to Manage Your Risk

If you or a loved one have diabetes, here are the four things you should know to protect your heart health.
Mar 15, 2024 8:25 AM ET


What’s in: Prioritizing your health

What’s out: Forgetting about preventive health.

When it comes to the ins and outs of knowing the connections between diabetes and heart disease, it can be confusing. People with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease because of their chronic disease1 — but there are things you can do to protect the heart.

Here is our “In and Out” list that can help guide what you do to lower your risk for heart disease if you or a loved one have diabetes.

What’s in: Using continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) to watch your glucose levels.

Glucose levels and heart disease risk go hand in hand.

Continuous glucose monitors like our FreeStyle Libre CGM systems can help you watch patterns in your levels over time and take action to stabilize them in the moment. If you’re living with diabetes, understanding glucose level trendlines is important for your health journey — especially when data suggests you’re twice as likely to be diagnosed with heart disease compared with people who don’t have diabetes.1

If a person’s glucose levels are constantly high, the heart’s blood vessels and nerves can be damaged.1

In comes a CGM. You can see your glucose levels, including where it has been and where it could go, throughout the day with this type of biowearable. As you move and eat, a CGM helps you watch out for when there is a sharp increase called a glucose spike — and how often that spike happens. If there’s a noticeable pattern, CGM users can share* their CGM data with their healthcare provider (which our FreeStyle Libre systems do through LibreView in select countries**) to determine if there are any lifestyle changes that can help and if any tests are recommended.

Take Beth Marcello, for example. Beth is a retired teacher and mother who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and lives with heart failure. She started using the FreeStyle Libre and Abbott’s CardioMEMS HF System and has had a much easier time managing her health.

“For me, my health is a numbers game. Looking at the numbers on my FreeStyle Libre app — which I check often — allows me to make better decisions about what and when I eat,” she said. “That in turn, impacts my heart health and my CardioMEMS numbers.”

“What’s great is that not only can I make smarter decisions about what I do every day, but my doctors share this information, making the care I get very personal and connected.”

What’s out: Not planning out how you eat.

“You can eat that?”

Diabetes stigma remains prevalent as people continue to misunderstand that diabetes doesn’t dictate a specific diet. Aim for healthy, balanced meals — the same advice applies to everyone.

And on top of having healthy, balanced meals, be purposeful about how you navigate your plate. According to a 2022 study, people with Type 2 diabetes who ate vegetables before eating carbohydrates saw an improvement in their average glucose levels when followed up with at the five-year mark.2

“Lifestyle changes for people with diabetes, like trying out food sequencing, don’t have to be overcomplicated,” said Dr. Mahmood Kazemi, divisional vice president, Diabetes Care, Abbott. “Continuous glucose monitoring helps draw the connections between what’s on a plate and how glucose levels are affected — and that benefits the diabetes management journey because informed decisions can happen. The goal is to help people with diabetes demystify the patterns in their glucose trendline over time since every body is different.”

It’s no secret that balancing a plate with leafy greens, whole grains and protein-rich foods can help protect against heart disease. But by considering how you eat in addition to what, you can better stabilize your glucose levels, which in turn decreases your risk of heart disease.3

What’s in: Getting active — starting with a walk.

There’s no question that being active is good for you.

However, 39% of adults with diabetes reported being physically active, compared to 58% of adults without diabetes, according to a U.S. survey.4 If getting moving feels daunting, consider starting small and try going for a walk. According to a study that compared walking for 30 minutes at any time of the day to walking 10 minutes after three main meals a day, the latter option may be more ideal to help reduce blood glucose levels.5

Steadily increasing your walking time better protects against heart disease. Research that followed people living with Type 2 diabetes over eight years found that people who walked at least two hours a week had a 34% lower heart disease mortality rate compared with people that were sedentary.6

Take the first step by purposefully incorporating a walk after every meal. Eventually, you’ll be able to consider moving up to other physical activities that can also help with diabetes and heart disease, such as resistance training.7

What’s out: Not setting up time to speak with your healthcare provider.

It’s important to make time to connect with your healthcare provider each year — especially to check in about your ABCs:1

  • Get an A1C test, which is a simple blood test that measures your average blood glucose levels over the past three months. Your doctor can help define what your target range should be.
  • Have your blood pressure checked.
  • Check your cholesterol levels to ensure they’re not too high.
  • Talk about any smoking habits that can impact your risk level.

If you have any questions about how to change your routine based on what your CGM is revealing about your glucose levels, an appointment is a great opportunity to walk through the data, talk about your current habits and plan for any changes that could help decrease your risk for heart disease.

What’s in: Protecting your heart.

What’s out: Avoiding change — this is the year you make lifestyle changes to take control of your health.

These materials are not intended to replace your doctor's advice or information. For any questions or concerns you may have regarding the medical procedures, devices and/or your personal health, please discuss these with your physician.

The testimonial relays an account of an individual's response to the treatment. This patient's account is genuine, typical, and documented. However, it does not provide any indication, guide, warranty or guarantee as to the response other persons may have to the treatment. Responses to the treatment discussed can and do vary and are specific to the individual patient.

* The user’s device must have internet connectivity for glucose data to automatically upload to LibreView.

** The LibreView data management software is intended for use by both patients and healthcare professionals to assist people with diabetes and their healthcare professionals in the review, analysis and evaluation of historical glucose meter data to support effective diabetes management. The LibreView software is not intended to provide treatment decisions or to be used as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 20). Diabetes and your heart. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-heart.html

2Nitta, A., Imai, S., Kajiayama, S., Matsuda, M., Miyawaki, T., Matsumoto, S., Kajiyama, S., Hashimoto, Y., Ozasa, N., & Fukui, M. (2022). Impact of dietitian-led nutrition therapy of food order on 5-year glycemic control in outpatients with type 2 diabetes at primary care clinic: retrospective cohort study. Nutrients, 14(14), 2865. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14142865

3American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee. (2023, December 11). 5. Facilitating positive health behaviors and well-being to improve health outcomes: Standards of care in Diabetes – 2024. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc24-S005

4Morrato, E.H., Hill, J.O., Wyatt, H.R., Ghushchyan, V., & Sullivan, P.W. (2007). Physical activity in U.S. adults with diabetes and at risk for developing diabetes, 2003. Diabetes Care, 30(2), 203-209. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc06-1128  

5Reynolds, A.N., Mann, J.I., Williams, S., & Venn, B.J. (2016). Advice to walk after meals is more effective for lowering postprandial glycaemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus than advice that does not specify timing: a randomised crossover study. Diabetologia, 59(1), 2572-2578. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-016-4085-2

6Gregg, E.W., Gerzoff, R.B., Caspersen, C.J., Williamson, D.F., & Narayan, K.M.V. (2003). Relationship of walking to mortality among US adults with diabetes. Arch Intern Med, 163(12), 1440-1447. https://doi.org/10.1001/archinte.163.12.1440

7Michielsen, M., Raats, E.N.I.D., Bos, G., De Wilde, C., Decorte, E., & Cornelissen, V. (2023). Effect of resistance training on HbA1c and other cardiovascular risk factors in patients with type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 30(1). https://doi.org/10.1093/eurjpc/zwad125.206


Failure to use FreeStyle Libre systems as instructed in labeling may result in missing a severe low or high glucose event and/or making a treatment decision, resulting in injury. If glucose reading and alarms (if enabled) do not match symptoms or expectations, use a fingerstick value from a blood glucose meter for treatment decisions. Seek medical attention when appropriate or contact Abbott at 855-632-8658 or FreeStyleLibre.us for safety info.

The product images are for illustrative purposes only.

The sensor housing, FreeStyle, Libre, and related brand marks are marks of Abbott. Other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

No use of any Abbott trademark, trade name, or trade dress in this site may be made without prior written authorization of Abbott Laboratories, except to identify the product or services of the company.

This website and the information contained herein is intended for use by residents of the United States.


By Prescription Only

Brief Summary: Prior to using these devices, please review the Instructions for Use for a complete listing of indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, potential adverse events and directions for use.

CardioMEMS™ HF System Indications and Usage: The CardioMEMS HF System is indicated for wirelessly measuring and monitoring pulmonary artery pressure and heart rate in NYHA Class II or III heart failure patients who either have been hospitalized for heart failure in the previous year and/or have elevated natriuretic peptides. The hemodynamic data are used by physicians for heart failure management with the goal of controlling pulmonary artery pressures and reducing heart failure hospitalizations.

Contraindications: The CardioMEMS™ HF System is contraindicated for patients with an inability to take dual antiplatelet or anticoagulants for one month post implant.

CardioMEMS™ HF System Potential Adverse Events: Potential adverse events associated with the implantation procedure include, but are not limited to, the following: air embolism, allergic reaction, infection, delayed wound healing, arrhythmias, bleeding, hemoptysis, hematoma, nausea, cerebrovascular accident, thrombus, cardiovascular injury, myocardial infarction, death, embolization, thermal burn, cardiac perforation, pneumothorax, thoracic duct injury and hemothorax.

myCardioMEMS™ Mobile App Limitations: Patients must use their own Apple‡ or Android‡ mobile device to receive and transmit information to the myCardioMEMS™ Mobile App. To do so the device must be powered on, app must be installed and data coverage (cellular or Wi-Fi‡) available. The myCardioMEMS™ App can provide notification of medication adjustments and reminders, requests for lab work and acknowledgment that the PA pressure readings have been received. However there are many internal and external factors that can hinder, delay, or prevent acquisition and delivery of the notifications and patient information as intended by the clinician. These factors include: patient environment, data services, mobile device operating system and settings, clinic environment, schedule/configuration changes, or data processing.