Diabetes puts you at risk for heart disease, but there are things you can do

Heart disease is the most common cause of death for adults with diabetes. Discover the link between diabetes and your heart, and learn what actions you can take to decrease your risk. 

Heart disease is the most common cause of death for adults with diabetes. Discover the link between diabetes and your heart, and learn what actions you can take to decrease your risk.

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. When you have diabetes, your body has trouble turning glucose into energy. Instead, the glucose builds up in your blood. People with Type 2 diabetes have higher-than-normal glucose levels in the blood.

How can you find out your blood sugar number?

Two different tests can find your blood glucose or blood sugar number.  These tests can be performed by your primary care provider.

Fasting blood glucose test

A blood sample is taken after you fast for at least eight hours or overnight.

In general:

  • Normal: 70 to 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • Prediabetes: 100 to 125 mg/dL
  • Diabetes: 126 mg/dL or higher

Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test

This test can show your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It measures the percentage of glucose attached to the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells (hemoglobin). The higher the level, the more sugar is attached to your hemoglobin.

In general:

  • Normal: Below 5.7 percent
  • Prediabetes: 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent
  • Diabetes: 6.5 percent or higher on two different tests

How does diabetes put you at risk for heart disease?

Type 2 diabetes causes glucose levels to stay high because the body works harder to make insulin. This increases cholesterol build up in blood vessel walls. This condition is called atherosclerosis. “High glucose damages the large and small blood vessels throughout your body, including those in the heart and other organs,” explained Mostafa O. El-Refai, M.D., cardiologist with Norton Heart Specialists. “Over time, organ and circulatory problems can lead to organ failure, heart attack or stroke.”

How can you decrease your risk for heart disease?

Learn your links to heart disease

Despite efforts to diagnose and treat heart disease early, many Americans are unaware of their risk. Are you one of them?

If you have diabetes

Blood glucose levels that remain high over time cause damage to blood vessels in the body. Therefore, it is extremely important to manage your diabetes and keep blood glucose within a healthy range. If you have diabetes, keeping your A1C below 7 percent is a goal for most people. It’s also important to manage other conditions, or links, to heart disease. This means lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI), getting daily exercise, managing stress and quitting smoking.

Ways to prevent diabetes

If you don’t currently have diabetes, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to lower your risk — for diabetes and for heart disease. According to Kristopher Z. Fannin, M.D., family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates ­– Audubon West 200, research shows you can lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent by losing 7 percent of your body weight and exercising 30 minutes a day five days a week.

Even if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, or higher than normal blood sugar levels, you can make lifestyle changes now to return blood sugar levels to the normal range.

“I encourage patients to consider prediabetes as an opportunity to take account of their lifestyle and habits and to make changes to improve their health,” Dr. Fannin said. “It’s also important to see your primary care provider regularly and to receive blood glucose screenings at recommended intervals so you can catch diabetes early and ensure that it is managed from the beginning.”


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