Individuals with diabetes have a significantly higher risk of heart disease. The facts are startling.
According to the American Heart Association, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease and stroke. Up to about 65 percent of people with diabetes may be at risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. Diabetes is considered one of the seven major controllable risk factors for heart disease.
Many individuals with diabetes also have other conditions that contribute to their increased risk for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and poorly controlled blood sugar. Obesity, lack of physical activity and smoking also contribute to the risk for heart disease.
Studies have shown a link between high blood pressure and insulin resistance, which occurs when the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. The risk for heart disease doubles for individuals with hypertension and insulin resistance. Obesity is also associated with insulin resistance.
One of the more important things persons with diabetes can do to reduce their risk for heart disease is control their blood sugar. When blood sugar is high for any length of time, it can impact any part of the body — heart, eyes, nerves, kidneys and more.
Normal blood sugar is around 100 milligrams per deciliter or less. People with diabetes should aim for blood sugar levels of less than 130 when fasting (or before meals) and no more than 180 two hours after a meal. Blood sugar should be regularly monitored as ordered by a physician.
In addition to regular blood sugar testing, the American Diabetes Association guidelines for standard of care should be followed. This includes regular monitoring of an individual's average blood sugar level for the past two to three months.
In order to maintain overall health, individuals with diabetes should also visit the dentist twice each year and have their feet and eyes checked annually.
Controlling blood sugar is best done by following the four M's: meal planning, movement, monitoring and medication.
Meal planning involves making good food choices and includes portion control, counting and limiting carbohydrate intake, and avoiding saturated and trans fats, which can raise cholesterol.
Movement means getting daily exercise and adding up to a minimum of 150 minutes per week.
Monitoring refers to the regular blood sugar checks, which should be done as often as recommended by a physician. The more an individual's blood sugar is elevated, the more closely it should be monitored. If blood sugar levels are higher than 180 consistently two hours after a meal, a physician should be consulted.
Medication is an important tool for controlling blood sugar in some patients with diabetes. It's important for those who are diabetic to take their medication as prescribed in order to maintain acceptable blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.