If you have diabetes, you’re at increased risk of developing heart disease.

“Diabetic heart disease,” or DHD, means heart disease that develops in people who have diabetes. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), people who have diabetes:

  • Are at higher risk of heart disease
  • May develop heart disease at a younger age
  • May have more severe heart disease

The kind of heart problems DHD causes include coronary artery disease, heart failure and cardiomyopathy, a disease that changes the heart’s structure.

Related: 6 Heart Attack Symptoms That Women Ignore

But if you have diabetes, heart disease isn’t inevitable. You may be able to prevent DHD by making changes in your lifestyle and taking your medications as directed. Exercise, for example, can help ward of DHD by lowering your blood pressure, helping control your blood sugar level and your weight, and reducing stress, according to the NHLBI.

Related: Injury-Proof Your Exercise Resolution

Working out at the gym “has lowered my blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose and weight,” wrote one man with type 2 diabetes on the diabetes community organization TuDiabetes. “I would tell anyone on this journey, don't give up…Never give up; just keep plowing ahead.”

Another TuDiabetes member replied, “Right eating is key, but the exercise (walking) has helped both my weight and my mood. I feel more energy and hence hopeful.”

Check out the infographic below for other ways to lower your risk of heart disease, courtesy of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP).

Related: Are You in Diabetes Denial?

diabetes and heart infographic(Photo: National Diabetes Education Program/National Diabetes Education Program)