Heart disease is a growing concern in the United States, especially among people with or at risk for diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than those who have not. However, many people with diabetes are unaware of the connection between heart disease and diabetes. To stay healthy, it is important to know how to reduce your risk for heart disease. Risk factors other than diabetes include:
AGE. As you get older, damage to the heart and blood vessels happens naturally. More than 83 percent of heart disease-related deaths occur in people 65 years of age and older.
FAMILY HISTORY. People whose parents have heart disease are at a higher risk of developing it themselves.
ETHNICITY. Some people are at a higher risk because of their ethnic background. Groups or cultures that have a higher risk for diabetes include African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, Asian-Americans, and native Hawaiians.
OVERWEIGHT/OBESITY. Having extra body fat, especially around your waistline, makes your heart work harder, and increases blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
PHYSICAL INACTIVITY. An inactive lifestyle increases your risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and obesity.
SMOKING. Smoking increases your risk of developing heart disease by as much as two to four times.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. Having high blood pressure can permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys.
HIGH BLOOD CHOLESTEROL. High cholesterol can block blood vessels in the brain or heart, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
CHOLESTEROL AND HEART DISEASE
Cholesterol has three main particles:
- LDL: It’s commonly known as “bad cholesterol” because it sticks to the walls of blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease.
- HDL: It’s often referred as “good cholesterol” because it removes LDL from the walls of blood vessels.
- TRIGLYCERIDES: These are fatty substances in the blood that are linked to heart disease.
LDL sticks to your blood vessels, causing them to narrow, which can reduce the amount of oxygen going to your heart. This “clogging” of the blood vessels is known as heart disease. Diabetes makes it easier for LDL to damage your blood vessels because the glucose attaches itself to the LDL and your body has a difficult time removing it from the blood. Therefore, LDL stays in your blood longer and increases your risk for blood vessel damage and heart disease. Also, people with type 2 diabetes tend to have low HDL levels and high triglycerides. This combination can increase your risk of developing heart disease. If heart disease becomes severe enough, the amount of oxygen your heart receives will decrease and possibly will cause a heart attack.
A “massive heart attack”, or sudden cardiac arrest, happens when the heart suddenly stops beating. Heart disease is the most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest. People who have heart disease or are at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest should consider purchasing a device known as an Automatic Electronic Defibrillator (AED). An AED is a portable medical device used on a person who is having a sudden cardiac arrest to get his or her heart back in rhythm. This device allows treatment to begin before emergency medical care can be given.
REDUCING YOUR RISK
To help reduce your overall risk of heart disease, the National Diabetes Education Program recommends that you focus on the “ABCs” of diabetes.
- A is for A1C, the blood test that lets you know your average blood glucose level over the past two to three months. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that your A1C be 7 percent or lower.
- B is for blood pressure. Having high blood pressure puts more strain on the heart and over time can lead to damage. The current ADA blood pressure goal is at or less than 130/80 mmHg.
- C stands for cholesterol. A healthy eating plan and regular activity are the first ways that most healthcare providers suggest to control your cholesterol. However, many people need to take medicines to improve their cholesterol level. The ADA recommends an LDL level that is less than 100 mg/dL, HDL greater than 40 mg/dLm and triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL.
Talk with your healthcare provider about your specific A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol goals. They may differ from the target goals suggested above. You can keep your diabetes in control and your heart healthy by eating healthy, being active, and taking your prescribed medicines. These steps will help you achieve the goals for the “ABC’s” of diabetes care. Results from your blood glucose monitoring and tests done by your healthcare provider will help you determine about how well you are doing or how you and your healthcare provider need to change your care. All these steps will help you reduce your risk of heart disease.
Automatic Electronic Defibrillators (AEDs)
Maybe you’ve been hearing more talk about AEDs, also known as Automatic Electronic Defibrillators. You see these portable devices on airplanes, in airports, schools, and community buildings. That’s because when they are used quickly and correctly, they can improve the chance of survival for a person having sudden cardiac arrest.
CARDIAC ARREST DEFINED
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. This is often caused by undetected heart disease. Sudden cardiac arrest can be a major challenge to emergency medical response teams because it is difficult to arrive fast enough to save a person’s life.
AEDs are portable medical devices that can be used to treat patients having sudden cardiac arrest on the spot. These devices deliver a high-voltage electrical charge to the heart in an attempt to establish a normal heart rhythm. When used properly, an AED can restart your heart and keep you alive until the emergency medical team arrives. In the past, AEDs were only available in ambulances and emergency rooms, but now they can be purchased for home and public use.
AEDs are very easy to use. In fact, even the non-medically trained people can safely and easily use the device. The built-in voice system in the AED calmly relays a set of easy instructions to the user in case of a sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs are designed to continually scan for a heartbeat and will notify you if the heart has restarted. Once the heartbeat is detectable, the AED will not deliver another series of shocks. It will, however, continue to monitor for a heartbeat. The AED can be used again if needed. For more information on these devices, you can visit www.houstontexans.com and www.jdrf.org.