More than 68% of Americans with diabetes do not realize they have a much higher risk for heart disease and stroke, according to a recent survey commissioned by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). More than half the people with diabetes polled do not feel at risk for a heart condition (53 %) or stroke (53%). Nearly two thirds (60%) do not feel at risk for either high blood pressure or cholesterol. In the face of all these statistics, medical studies have shown that people with diabetes tend to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO LOWER YOUR RISK?
A good place to start is to have your blood lipid (fat) levels tested. Cholesterol is a measure of fat and scar tissue deposits (called plaque) on blood vessel walls. The plaque builds up and can block the flow of blood through the vessel. Over time, the blockage can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
When you lower your cholesterol, the plaque becomes less fatty so there is less chance of a blood clot forming. If you have high cholesterol levels you can lower them if you:
- Stop smoking.
- Become more active — exercising 10 minutes 3 times a day can help to raise your HDL cholesterol (the “helpful” cholesterol).
- Replace the saturated fat in your diet with monosaturated fat. Although both types of fat have the same amount of calories, monosaturated fat lowers your LDL cholesterol level (the “lousy” cholesterol).
- Eat more soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in raw fruits, vegetables, and beans, and helps lower cholesterol.
- Take medicines called statins that help lower cholesterol levels.
Aside from these, there are other things that you can do. When the blood cells stick together they can form clots. Aspirin makes blood cells less likely to stick together. Any dose from one baby aspirin (81 mg.) to one adult aspirin (325 mg.) will work. Aspirin has been shown to lower the risk for heart attack by 60% among people with diabetes. Being overweight, having high blood pressure, and a family history of heart disease add to the risk. Women with diabetes have the same level of risk as men. Although you can’t change your genes or your gender, knowing these risks helps you pay more attention to those things you can change.
People with diabetes need to have their blood cholesterol level checked each year. If your last test was over a year ago, ask your doctor to order one. Talk over the results and ask what you can do to lower your risk. You can’t give your heart a hug, but you can show your love by doing everything you can to lower your risk for heart disease.
Total cholesterol recommended level is <200 mg/dl.
- Your cholesterol is made up of three kinds of lipids (fats). These are LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Your total cholesterol level is a screening tool for your risk for heart disease. LDL cholesterol recommended level is less than 100 mg/dl.
- LDL is the bad or “lousy” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol builds up inside the blood vessels and can cause blockage. One way to lower your LDL is by eating less saturated fat. Saturated fat makes cholesterol in your body. HDL cholesterol recommended level is greater than 45 mg/dl for men and 55 mg/dl for women.
- HDL is the good or “helpful” cholesterol. HDL helps remove cholesterol from your blood. One way to raise your HDL level by increasing your activity.
Triglycerides recommended level is less than 200 mg/dl.
- Triglycerides are fats made from sugars in your blood. When your blood sugar is high, your triglycerides tend to be high. Lowering your blood sugar, drinking less alcohol, and medications help lower triglycerides.