Diabetes and Your Heart

Tips to help you prevent or manage this common complication

Joy PapeBy Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

You've most likely heard that having diabetes increases your risk of heart disease, but does it have to? You may wonder if there is anything you can do to prevent heart disease or better manage heart disease if you already have it.

It is important for you to understand that just because you have diabetes doesn't mean you are going to have complications. Studies continue to show that by managing/controlling your diabetes, you can prevent complications such as cardiovascular (heart) disease. This has been shown to be true in type 1 diabetes. As for type 2, there's some controversy about how tight control should be. Many questions remain concerning some studies that did not show a decrease in heart disease in people who have type 2 diabetes.

Although there is some controversy, your best "insurance" to prevent or manage heart disease is to keep your blood sugar as near normal as possible before and after eating, unless otherwise advised by your health care professionals, try to prevent wide fluctuations, and to do your best to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Studies have also shown that in people who have type 2 diabetes, it is the high after-meal blood sugars that are related to developing heart disease.

Here are some tips for you to help you prevent or manage heart disease if you have diabetes:
1. Understand that managing diabetes is not just about managing your blood sugar. It means managing your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol (lipids), and more.
2. Know your ABCs. Knowledge is power. It is your first line of defense from complications. Know what your numbers should be, and strive to reach those goals (targets).

  • A=A1C. The A1C is the short name for hemoglobin A1C, a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over about the past 3 months. Different organizations recommend different goals. For most non-pregnant adults, The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends your A1C be <7%, The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) recommend it be less than 6.5%. Discuss with your health care provider what yours should be.
  • B=Blood Pressure. The ADA recommends your blood pressure be <140/80. AACE recommends your blood pressure be ~130/80. When you have your blood pressure checked or check it yourself, make sure you check it correctly.
  • C=Cholesterol (Lipid Profile). When your health care provider and you evaluate your cholesterol, you should really be looking at a lipid profile, which measures different types of fat in your blood. Cholesterol is one kind of blood fat. It is important for you to know that not all fats, including cholesterol, are bad. Your total cholesterol (TC) is only part of the test. A simple lipid profile shows these types of lipids, which should be:
    • TC (Total Cholesterol) <100
    • HDL (High Density Lipoprotein-considered your Healthy cholesterol) >40 for men, >50 for women
    • Triglycerides (A type of fat stored in your blood to provide energy, and can be related to heart disease) <150
    • LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein-considered your Lousy cholesterol) <100, if you have or are at higher risk for heart disease <70.
  • Please note, there are more specific tests that can tell you more about your HDL, LDL, and other results to give you a fuller picture of your heart health. If you are interested, talk with your health care professional about getting these tests.

3. Know and follow the American Association of Diabetes Educators' Self-Care Behaviors, which are to:
    1. Eat healthy
    2. Be active
    3. Monitor (your blood sugar, blood pressure, lipids, and more)
    4. Take your medications as prescribed
    5. Solve problems as they arise, or prevent them from happening
    6. Reduce risks by stopping smoking, and getting regular heart, eye, foot, and dental exams
    7. Cope with having diabetes healthfully by getting the psychological and social support you need.

I know this sounds like a lot. Remember, one step at a time. Start with knowing your ABCs, and using the AADE 7, one step at a time to reach your goals.

EnJOY a healthy heart!

Joy Pape
MSN RN FNP CDE WOCN CFCN FAADE

Read Joy's bio here. 

Read more of Joy Pape's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: February 07, 2014

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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