February is American Heart Month, and our friends at the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and WomenHeart have lots up their sleeves to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
There’s a big link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In fact, it strikes people with diabetes more than twice as often as people without diabetes. Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.
That’s why it pays to know your ABCs—of heart health, that is! These ABCs are an easy way to remember some of the most important health issues related to diabetes, so you can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.
A is for A1C
Your A1C reflects your average blood glucose level for the two-to-three month period before the test. Your healthcare provider uses it to determine how well you are managing your blood sugar. A goal of less than 7 percent is desirable, which corresponds to an average blood glucose level of 150 mg/dL.
B is blood pressure
High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than it should. People with diabetes should aim for a blood pressure level below 130/80 mm Hg.
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.
And just in case, people with diabetes and their families should also be familiar with the signs of heart attacks and heart failure. These symptoms can be subtle and often go unnoticed. Learn about these important warning signs.
Now that you know your ABCs, speak with your healthcare provider about ways to keep these health indicators in control. In many cases, both type 2 diabetes and heart disease can be prevented by making small lifestyle changes. For starters, try more whole grains and produce and cut back on saturated fats and salt. Learn more about making heart-healthy food choices.
Don’t forget to get moving! Exercise provides numerous health benefits, including lowering blood glucose, improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure. Need some inspiration? Click here for some exercise ideas.
And if you happen to smoke, know that quitting is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Once you’ve quit, you’ll feel healthier right away—and you’ll be healthier for the rest of your life. Your doctor can help you develop a cessation plan and find local support groups to guide you along the way. Ready to quit? Start here.
What steps are you taking—or planning to take—to improve your heart health?