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5 Things All Women With Type 2 Diabetes Need to Do to Protect Their Heart

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Struggling with type 2 diabetes isn’t a stand-alone issue. If you have the disease, you’re also more likely to deal with high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and obesity—all cardiovascular risk factors. But here’s the good news: You can make swift changes that combat your diabetes and help your heart, too. Try these double-duty health fixes.

1. Find new recipes.

People who ate homemade lunches and dinners (11 to 14 meals a week compared with six) had a 13 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes—and gained less weight over time (which is good for your heart as well), according to a Harvard study.

Start now: Send an email to your closest friends asking for their favorite healthy recipes and make a few each week.

2. Up the intensity when you exercise.

Short, 10-minute bursts of heart-pumping exercise three times a day, five days a week, helped people with type 2 diabetes improve their cholesterol and blood sugar levels and lose pounds, says an early study from the University of Western Ontario.

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Start now: Do one 10-minute workout today (go to Be Fit for free videos), then work up to three per day.

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3. Don’t skimp on sleep.

Logging fewer than 6 hours a night can mean you may be three times more likely to develop a condition that makes it difficult for your body to regulate blood sugar, according to a British study.

Start now: Aim for 8 hours—but don’t dwell on a specific time to get to bed, or you may feel pressure that could keep you awake. Instead, set a window, like 10:30 to 11:15.

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4. Quit smoking—forever.

Lighting up clogs your arteries, decreases good cholesterol, and makes it harder to control blood sugar levels. Plus, if you smoke and have diabetes, you’re three times more likely than a nonsmoker to die of cardiovascular disease.

Start now: Visit Freedom From Smoking Online, a quitting program with a digital community support group.

5. Participate in a health and fitness challenge.

Take a cue from reader Rhonda Hall, 45, from Springfield, MA, who used a group challenge to motivate her to make changes: “In 2008, I weighed 280 pounds and already had type 2 diabetes. I entered a Biggest Loser competition at my church and started swapping fried foods for fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast and exercising. Now, seven years later, I’m down 100 pounds. I no longer take insulin, and have lowered my cholesterol and blood pressure medications. Diabetes is not the end-all—you can take control and make changes!”

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