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Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: What’s the Link?
Amy Scholten, MPH
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a complication and cause of premature death among people with
diabetes. Unfortunately, many people with diabetes do not understand the risk of cardiovascular disease or what they can do to help prevent it.
Diabetes is a disorder in which the body
does not make insulin, does not make enough insulin, or
does not properly use the insulin it makes
(insulin resistance). Insulin helps metabolize glucose, the body's primary source of energy. Without insulin, glucose from food cannot enter cells. Glucose builds up in the blood and body tissues become starved for energy. Over time, persistent high blood glucose levels can damage the arteries, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other tissues.
Adults with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have CVD than people without diabetes.
In people with diabetes, high blood glucose levels are associated with the development of
atherosclerosis. This is a condition in which fatty deposits called plaque damage the lining of the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. Atherosclerosis, a main cause of CVD, interferes with blood flow—ultimately leading to several manifestations of CVD including:
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the management of three critical indicators is essential for reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with diabetes. It's as easy as ABC:
is measured with the hemoglobin
test. The recommended goal for this test is a reading of less than 7%.
should be less than 140/80 mm Hg.
should be less than 100 mg/dL. Other cholesterol goals include:
Triglycerides—should be under 150 mg/dL
For men, HDL (good) cholesterol should be above 40 mg/dL, and for women it should be over 50 mg/dL
Individual goals may vary some. Talk to your doctor about which goals are right for you.
How Do You Lower the Risk?
People with diabetes can lower their risk of CVD with therapeutic lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, weight management, and regular exercise. Drug therapy is also available to control some risk factors for CVD and prevent or treat the complications of diabetes.
People with diabetes can take the following steps to help reduce their risk of CVD:
Get involved in treatment decisions with your healthcare team
Be actively involved in the management of your disease
Diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated February 19, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2014.
Heart disease. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed April 23, 2014.
Hypertension treatments in patients with diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated Mar 17, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2014.
Lipid-lowering in patients with diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated Mar 31, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2014.
The link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. US Department of Health and Human Services' National Diabetes Education Program website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated February 2007. Accessed April 23, 2014.
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