Diabetes and heart disease

Leigh Ann Brooks, Nursing Services Operational Lead, Diabetes Education, Parkview Regional Medical Center, helps us make the connection between diabetes and the increased risk of complications related to your heart, circulation and blood vessels.

Love is in the air and spring is right around the corner, but February is an important month for another reason, too. It’s American Heart Month! When you have diabetes, taking good care of your heart is especially important. Diabetes could put you at greater risk for problems with your heart, blood vessels and circulation. You could be at even greater risk for these problems if you also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high stress levels, a diet high in saturated fat and are overweight or obese.

Lifestyle habits such as smoking and not exercising routinely can also increase your risk for complications. When your blood sugar is elevated routinely, the walls of your blood vessels can become thick and hardened. When this occurs, the vessels that supply blood to your heart and brain can become blocked, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

This damage can also cause poor circulation to your legs and feet. Poor circulation can cause leg pain and lead to ulcers, infections and amputations. If you have diabetes, one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of heart, blood vessel and circulatory problems is to know your ABCs:

  1. A1C level
  • Your A1C target should be 7 percent or less
  • Your A1C should be checked every 3-6 months
  1. Blood pressure
    • Your blood pressure target is 140/90 mmHg or less
    • Your blood pressure should be checked at every doctor’s visit
  2. Cholesterol levels
    • Your LDL cholesterol target is less than 100 mg/dL
    • Your HDL cholesterol should be at least greater than 40 mg/dL
    • Your triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dL
    • Your cholesterol levels should be checked at least annually and more often in some cases

Here are some additional ways you can show your heart some love this month:

  • If you smoke, make a plan to stop!
  • Monitor your blood sugars
  • Exercise routinely
  • Manage your stress levels
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet, low saturated fat and salt
  • Lose weight if needed
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation
  • Discuss with your doctor if aspirin therapy is right for you

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