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Diabetes poses heart, stroke risks

Diabetes poses risk to heart health.

 In recent years, the American Heart Association has identified diabetes as one of the seven major, controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Adults with diabetes are about 50 percent more likely to die from a heart attack than adults without diabetes, according to a study of 700,000 people conducted over 10 years by the University of Leeds in England.

“We’ve made significant advances in the treatment of heart disease over the past two decades,” said Claresa Levetan, M.D., endocrinologist at Chestnut Hill Hospital. “In general, your chances of surviving a heart attack or stroke today are far greater than ever before, but for those with diabetes, the improvements in survival rates are less than half those of the general population.”

Diabetes alone is now regarded by many clinicians as the strongest risk factor for heart disease. If you have diabetes, it’s not enough to control your blood sugar levels. The blood vessels in patients with diabetes are more susceptible to high cholesterol and high blood pressure, due to higher glucose levels, than those of a person without diabetes. More than 90 percent of patients with diabetes have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you add smoking and/or obesity, additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the scales tip even more toward having a heart attack or stroke.

The good news is, the guidelines to prevent heart disease and those to prevent diabetes are very similar.

  • Keep your blood glucose in healthy range. Your fasting blood sugar should be consistently under 100. If you don’t know your A1C level, the measure of your blood glucose levels over the previous three months, ask your doctor.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days per week.
  • Eat a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods that focuses on a variety of high-quality fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep blood pressure below 140/80, especially if you have diabetes.
  • Keep cholesterol and triglycerides in normal range, with a focus on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. LDL should be no higher than 100 mg/dl in adults with diabetes.
  • Keep your weight and body mass index (BMI) in normal range. The healthiest range for BMI is 19-25.
  • If you smoke, get the help you need to stop.

“There are plenty of physical and clinical factors that we can’t control, but type 2 diabetes just isn’t one of them,” Levetan said. “The best way to prevent or delay death from heart disease is simply to prevent diabetes. Get with your doctor, get a plan and stick to it. You may add an additional 20 or even 30 years to your life.”

Source: Chestnut Hill Hospital