Be Smart About Your Heart: Control the ABCs of Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Month. This year, the National Diabetes Education Program brings attention to the link between diabetes and heart disease with the theme, Be Smart About Your Heart: Control the ABCs of Diabetes.

What is the link between diabetes and heart disease?

Diabetes can affect any part of your body, including your heart. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of early death among people with diabetes. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely than people without diabetes to die of heart disease or experience a stroke. High blood glucose in adults with diabetes increases the risk for heart attack, angina, and coronary artery disease.

How many people are at risk?

Perhaps you, a family member, or someone close to you is one of the more than 19 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes. An additional seven million people go undiagnosed. An estimated 79 million adults age 20 or older have pre-diabetes, which puts them at high risk for developing the disease. Having diabetes might seem overwhelming, however with help, support, and encouragement, you can make a difference in your health.

The Diabetes ABCs help you be smart about your heart

Know and control your ABCs

  • A is for A1C. The A1C test (sometimes known as the HbA1c or hemoglobin A1C test) measures your average blood glucose (sugar) over the last three months. For most people with diabetes, the A1C goal is below 7. Work in partnership with your health care team to know what your target should be and take steps towards better blood glucose control. This may include diet, exercise, and medication.
  • B is for Blood Pressure. High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. For most people with diabetes, the blood pressure goal is below 130/80. Talk with your health care team to determine your blood pressure target and whether or not you need to take medication to keep your blood pressure in control. Consider eating less salt/sodium and choose healthy food instead of processed foods. Staying physically active can also help control blood pressure.
  • C is for Cholesterol. Bad cholesterol, or LDL, builds up and clogs your arteries, thereby increasing heart disease and stroke. The LDL goal is below 100. You can make steps towards keeping your cholesterol under control by eating more fiber, whole grains, vegetables, and beans. In some cases, your health care provider might recommend that you take a cholesterol lowering medication to get your cholesterol within a safe, healthy range.
  • S is for Stop Smoking. If you smoke, consider quitting. Smokers with diabetes are more likely to experience nerve damage and kidney disease along with increased blood sugar levels. Support and resources are available. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Callers with an Apple Health plan qualify for up to five calls to the quit-line and free nicotine patches or gum. See the Apple Health Benefits Book for more information.

A strong partnership with your health care provider is important in deciding the steps to take to lower your risk of diabetes complications. Though it may not always be easy to ask questions, it's important to have an open dialogue with your health care provider to develop a diabetes treatment plan that will work best for you.

The Washington Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Prevention Program works with partners to promote quality healthcare at the community, clinical, and patient levels. Some of resources include Living Well with Chronic Conditions in Washington State (based on Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program), the Diabetes Self-Management Program, and Diabetes Education for Medicaid Patients, and Health Home.

As a Spanish proverb says: "A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools."

Though the holidays are a busy time for all of us, make and take the time for your health and wellness. You are worth it!

ADS staff Mary Pat O’Leary, RN and Janice Nelson, RN are front and center in this photo of Living Well with Chronic Conditions master trainers.

Contributor Mary Pat O'Leary, RN is a planner at Aging and Disability Services and a Living Well with Chronic Conditions master trainer. Mary Pat gives kudos to Sara Eve Sarliker at the Washington State Department of Health's Heart, Stroke and Diabetes Program and Jeanne Harmon, RD, MBA, CDE, a health services Consultant at the Washington State Department of Health for their work in promoting diabetes health and wellness.