How to have a heart-to-heart with your doctor
Talking about your health can be a scary experience, but your doctor is there to help you navigate any questions you may have, and any health issues you’re worried about.
To have a heart-to-heart with your general practitioner (GP) doctor, simply book an appointment to discuss your heart health, and ask them the following questions:
- Am I at risk of a heart attack or stroke?
- Is diabetes increasing my risk of a heart attack or stroke?
- What else contributes to my risk of heart attack or stroke?
- Should I be concerned about this right now?
- What changes can I make to lower my risk of heart disease?
- How can I get more active?
- How can I get personalised dietary advice?
- If I already take heart medication, am I still at risk?
- How will I know if I’ve lowered my risk?
To help you remember all of these questions, download the Have a Heart-to-Heart with your GP factsheet to take with you to your appointment.
How to take care of your heart
Taking care of your heart is important when you have diabetes. There are multiple ways to reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Be physically active: Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure and help reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke. Aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Check with your doctor before starting any physical activity program.
- Make healthy food choices: Choose a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats and low-fat dairy foods. Include high-fibre, low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrate foods. It’s also important to limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium (salt). Talk to a dietitian about the best food choices to reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Keep blood fats (cholesterol and triglycerides) in the target range: Keeping cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the target range can reduce your risk of heart disease. As a guide, aim for:
- Total cholesterol less than 4mmol/L
- LDL (bad) cholesterol less than 2mmol/L
- HDL (good) cholesterol 1mmol/L or above
- Triglycerides less than 2mmol/L
Your doctor may prescribe medications that can help manage your cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease.
- Manage high blood pressure: High blood pressure is common in people with diabetes, and it can more than double the risk of heart disease. Weight loss (if needed) and regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure. As a general guide, the blood pressure target for people with diabetes is 130/80 or less. If you have existing cardiovascular or kidney disease, your doctor will advise you on a blood pressure target to meet your individual health needs. Your doctor may prescribe medications that can help manage your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and other diabetes-related complications.
- If your weight is above the healthy weight range, try to lose weight: Carrying excess weight, especially around your waist, is a major risk factor for heart disease and is strongly linked to type 2 diabetes. Losing weight through exercise and a healthy diet can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Don’t smoke – if you do smoke, try and quit: Smoking is a major risk factor for sudden cardiac death, and smokers who have diabetes double their risk of heart disease. If you feel you can’t give up smoking on your own, ask for help – talk to your doctor or call the Quitline on 13 78 48.