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The ABCs of Diabetes and Heart Disease

May 13, 2021

There’s a strong link between diabetes, heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes have more than two times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. In fact, 2 in 3 people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

That’s because, over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop heart disease. In fact, people with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes.

But remembering your ABCs when it comes to diabetes and heart disease can help. So, let’s take a look at the ABCs of diabetes and heart disease and why it’s so important to know what they are.

Healthy ABCs

Taking care of your diabetes and the conditions that come with it can help you lower your chances of heart and blood vessel disease. Every step you take to keep your ABCs (A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol) in your target range will help lower your risk.

A is for A1C

Your A1C check, which also may be reported as estimated average glucose (eAG), tells you your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months.

If your A1C level is below 5.7%, it’s considered normal. But a level of 5.7% to 6.4% indicates prediabetes, and a level of 6.5% or more indicates diabetes. Within the 5.7% to 6.4% prediabetes range, the higher your A1C, the greater your risk is for developing Type 2 diabetes.

B is for Blood Pressure

High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than it should. Ways to lower your blood pressure include:

  1. Knowing your numbers: Normal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120 over 80.
  2. Getting regular exercise: Doing moderate-level exercise for 30 minutes a day can lower your blood pressure significantly.
  3. Eating a healthy diet: The DASH Diet is a great diet to follow if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure. DASH stands for “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension.” It emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods.

You can use a blood pressure monitor to keep track, or you can see your doctor regularly.

C is for Cholesterol

Your cholesterol numbers tell you about the amount of fat in your blood. Some kinds, like HDL cholesterol, help protect your heart. Others, like LDL cholesterol, can clog your arteries. High triglycerides raise your risk for a heart attack or a stroke.

All adults age 20 or older should have their cholesterol (and other traditional risk factors) checked every four to six years.

Healthy Cholesterol Levels For Men

Total Cholesterol

125 to 200 mg/dL

Non-HDL

Less than 130 mg/dL

LDL

Less than 100 mg/dL

HDL

40 mg/dL or higher

Healthy Cholesterol Levels For Women

Total Cholesterol

125 to 200 mg/dL

Non-HDL

Less than 130 mg/dL

LDL

Less than 100 mg/dL

HDL

50 mg/dL or higher

If your values are within the normal range (total cholesterol less than 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)) and you do not have other risk factors for heart disease, you can continue getting tested every five years. If they aren't normal, you should talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes you can make or medication you may need.

Annual Exams-Dr. Stevens

Another way to track all of your numbers is to download our guide “Know Your Numbers.”  It can help you to keep track of your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body weight. All of these numbers can contribute to your risk for developing a serious illness.

Know Your Numbers