Many people with diabetes develop at least mild cardiovascular disease. Therefore, treatment consists of a strong program for preventing further damage to the heart and blood vessels, coupled with specific therapies for problems that already exist. Whether plaque build-up affects the arteries of the heart, legs, brain or other organs, effective prevention and treatment are likely to involve:
- Lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, stress management and quitting smoking;
- Medications to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels; and
- For some patients, daily aspirin to ward off unwanted blood clots.
In the case of severe plaque build-up, treatment may involve catheter-based interventions, such as angioplasty and stenting to widen the diseased artery and hold it open. In some cases, surgery may be needed to bypass the blockage and re-route blood flow through a new vessel or - in the case of the arteries that supply blood to the brain - to scrape and remove the plaque from the artery wall, restoring adequate blood flow.
The best way to prevent cardiovascular disease is to take good care of yourself and keep your diabetes under control.