Understand Your Risk for Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month, a great time to raise awareness about heart disease and how to prevent it. Did you know that having diabetes puts you at increased risk for heart disease?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease because over time, high blood glucose levels can affect blood flow, increasing the chance of clogging and hardening of blood vessels.

Other Risk Factors Many people with diabetes also have other conditions associated with insulin resistance. Among these are high blood pressure (hypertension), abnormal blood cholesterol, and obesity, all of which contribute to their chance of developing heart disease.

There are certain lifestyle choices which are considered risk factors for heart disease as well, primarily the lack of physical activity and smoking.

Minimizing your Risks The good news? The AHA considers all of these controllable risk factors for heart disease, which means there are specific changes you can make to lower these risks and develop a heart-healthy lifestyle.

1. Reduce blood sugar. If you have diabetes, prediabetes, or a family history, it's important to work closely with your health care team to control your blood sugar through healthy living and personal treatment. Have an A1c test at least twice a year. (Target: below 7 percent, unless your doctor sets a different one.) Know and monitor blood glucose levels. (Targets: 80-130 mg/dL before meals and less than 180 mg/dL after meals.) Learn more about diabetes, heart disease and stroke from the National Institutes of Health.

2. Choose Good Nutrition. Focus on nutrient-rich foods: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils, and nuts. Limit sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meat.

3. Get Active. The AHA recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week. For information about exercise and diabetes, click here.

4. Control Cholesterol. Have your cholesterol levels checked at least once a year. (Target for LDL, or bad cholesterol: under 100 mg/dL. Target for triglycerides: under 150 mg/dL. Target for HDL, or good cholesterol: Men - above 40 mg/dL; Women - above 50 mg/dL.)

5. Manage Blood Pressure. Have your blood pressure checked at every office visit. (Target: below 140/80 mmHg, unless your doctor sets a different one.)

6. Stop Smoking. If you smoke, quit. If someone in your household smokes, encourage them to quit. Check out the AHA's Quit Smoking Fact Sheet for helpful tools.

7. Take all medication, as prescribed by your doctor.

 The information provided within this site is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with your physician or healthcare provider.

Mary Ellen Young, RN, CDE, CPT

Mary Ellen Young, RN, CDE, CPT

Mary Ellen Young is a Registered Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified Pump Trainer and a Clinical Insulin Pump Specialist for CCS Medical.

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