5 Steps to Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in persons with diabetes

After both of my grandmothers passed away from cardiovascular related diseases, I wondered if this would also be my fate later in life. Both of them battled type 2 diabetes and hypertension for many years.  Although I do not have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, I decided to do some research and make sure my diabetes management was on point.

While diabetes can cause significant damage to the heart and brain, so too can other conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol. Diabetics are especially vulnerable to the cardiovascular diseases and must strive to stay healthy by managing cardiovascular risk factors.

According to Om P. Ganda, M.D., of the Joslin Diabetes Center, there is a clear-cut relationship between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Studies from Joslin Diabetes Center many years ago showed a two- to three-fold increased incidence of heart disease in patients with diabetes compared to people without diabetes who were being followed in the Framingham Heart Study. Women with diabetes have an even greater risk of heart disease compared to those of similar age who do not have diabetes. In fact, cardiovascular disease is by far the most frequent cause of death in both men and women with diabetes. Another major component of cardiovascular disease is poor circulation in the legs, which contributes to a greatly increased risk of foot ulcers and amputations.

There are certain targets that we must try to reach in order to prevent or delay these life-threatening diseases and complications.

5 Steps to Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

  1. Blood pressure: A blood pressure below 130/90 mmhg ideally 120/80 mmhg. Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers:

    The upper number (Systolic blood pressure) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.

    The lower number (Diastolic blood pressure) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

  2. HbA1c: A glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) below 7%. The HbA1c is a blood test which gives an estimate of your blood sugar for the previous three months. Your major blood vessels consist of arteries which carry blood away from your heart, and veins which return it. Having constantly high blood sugar levels (over 8 mmol/L) can damage these vessels. Try to stay between 5 and 7 mmol/L.

  3. Cholesterol: Total cholesterol below 5 mmol/l and/or a LDL (‘bad cholesterol’) below 2.3 mmol/l.

  4. Weight control: Being overweight or obese will definitely put you at a high risk for cardiovascular and many other diseases. Losing body fat and keeping it off will have a positive impact on risk reduction and will improve your overall health. Losing as little as 10 pounds can have a significant impact.

  5. Avoid cigarettes, all recreations drugs and reduce alcohol consumption to a minimum (or simply eliminate completely).

If these targets are obtained and maintained, the chance of having a sudden cardiovascular event, like a heart attack or stroke, is significantly reduced. Reaching and maintaining these targets are extremely important. As diabetics, we need ongoing medical care, and periodic blood and urine tests, to ensure that optimum health is maintained. This reduces the risk of an acute cardiovascular event.

5 Steps to Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Infographic

Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease

References: http://www.joslin.org, http://www.thebarbadosdiabetesfoundation.org

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