February 10, 2018
Heart Disease and Diabetes
By Kathy Strom RN/CDE, Diabetes Education Coordinator
More than 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and another 86 million have prediabetes, which means they are at risk for developing diabetes. People with diabetes are 50% more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke than someone without diabetes.
Diabetes increases the risk of developing heart disease as elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels cause blood vessels to become thickened and less elastic. People with diabetes often have higher levels of fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream which then narrows and can eventually clog the blood vessels leading to a heart attack or stroke.
If you have diabetes what is your risk for heart disease? Your risk is determined by factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity, elevated blood glucose levels and smoking.
How can you reduce your risk for heart disease?
- Work with your healthcare provider to help you reach appropriate blood glucose levels. For most people with diabetes, before meal blood glucose results should be 80-120 and 80-180 two hours after a meal. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider for the range that is best for you.
- Know your A1C level and work to keep it below 7%. The A1C is a lab test that provides an estimated average of how well controlled the blood glucose has been for the past 3 months.
- Maintain your blood pressure at 130/85 or less. For most people with diabetes this will require medications such as ACE-inhibitors or ARBs.
- If you are overweight meet with a dietitian to help you get started on an appropriate meal plan that will help you lose weight and control your blood glucose levels.
- Exercise regularly. If you are physically able, regular exercise (walking, biking, swimming, etc.) for 30 minutes a day 3-4 days a week is recommended. Before starting any exercise plan, be sure you talk with your healthcare provider.
- Stop smoking. Smoking causes constriction of the blood vessels which then leads to greater risk of heart attack and stroke. One year after stopping smoking, heart disease risk decreases by 50%.
- Reduce fat and salt intake. While medications (statins) help decrease cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream, a low fat, low salt diet can lower cholesterol and help you lose weight. Salt (sodium) intake should be less than 2300 mg per day. Diets like the Mediterranean diet that emphasize fruits and vegetables, fish and chicken over red meat, and using olive or canola oils instead of butter are encouraged.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. If you have diabetes your risk of having a heart attack of stroke increases dramatically. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways you can reduce your risk and avoid this killer.
The "Weekend Check-Up" is a regular health column published in the Cowley Courier Traveler penned by employees and friends of William Newton Hospital.