Have diabetes?  Know your ABC’s for a healthy heart

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of early death for people with diabetes. Find out what you can do to lower your risk.

Heart and blood vessel problems are the main causes of sickness and death among people with diabetes. These problems can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. Heart and blood vessel problems can also cause poor circulation (blood flow) in the legs and feet.

February is American Heart Month. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely than people without diabetes to die of heart disease or experience a stroke. Also, about 70% of people with diabetes have high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

One thing you can do is know your ABC’s: A1C (a measure of average blood glucose), Blood pressure, and Cholesterol. The ABC treatment goals for most people with diabetes are:

A: A1C (blood glucose) less than seven percent

B: Blood Pressure less than 130/80 mmHg

C: Cholesterol – LDL less than 100 mg/dl

People with diabetes can work with their health care team to develop and use an action plan to reach their ABC goals. A functional action plan can help people to lower their risk for cardiovascular disease. Choose from these heart healthy activities:

  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
  • Get at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity. Brisk walking or a similar activity most days of the week can help with weight loss and lower blood pressure.
  • Eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  • Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts (in small amounts), fat-free or low-fat milk, and milk products.
  • Eat more fiber. Include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dry peas and beans in your diet.
  • Stop smoking, or ask their health care team for help to quit. Smoking is one of the major risk factors associated with heart attack and stroke.
  • Take medications as directed. And ask their doctor about taking daily aspirin.
  • Ask family and friends to help with managing your diabetes. This support can help you reach goals.

Visit the National Diabetes Education Program to learn more about the ABC’s of diabetes.

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