The American Diabetes Association states that people with diabetes are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke. This is primarily because the high levels of glucose in the blood of diabetics can cause fatty deposits on their artery walls. The fat deposits may block blood flow, also known as atherosclerosis, and lead to a heart attack.
To reduce the risk of having cardiovascular disease, everyone should regularly exercise and eat a balanced diet. But since diabetics are already at higher risk, they also need to monitor three key factors: blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Usually when one factor's measurements are off, the other two are off as well.
High Blood Sugar
All diabetics should regularly monitor the amount of glucose in their blood. Blood sugar is measured by seeing how much glucose sticks to the blood component hemoglobin A1c. Thus the test is called an A1c test.
According to the American Diabetes Association, a high blood sugar is considered to be an A1c over 6.5 percent, but most diabetics strive for an A1c under 7 percent. Your doctor will give you a personal goal for your A1c level.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, causes your heart to struggle to pump blood throughout your body. Exerting this much tension on the heart can raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and a reading is given in fraction form with two numbers: a systolic pressure number and a diastolic pressure number. The systolic pressure number is on top, which indicates the pressure created in your arteries or blood vessels when your heart beats. The diastolic pressure number is on bottom and indicates the pressure in your arteries or blood vessels when your heart is at rest in between each beat. For a diabetic adult, an ideal blood pressure should be around 130/80 mmHg.
Just like high levels of glucose in the blood, high levels of cholesterol in your blood can cause blockages. Cholesterol is lipids or fats in your blood, which you acquire through genetics and through what you eat, primarily meats, egg yolks and dairy products.
There are two types of cholesterol: low-density-lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density-lipoprotein (HDL). You want to avoid high levels of LDL cholesterol, as this is the type that can block arteries. HDL cholesterol works to eliminate LDL cholesterol from the blood, moving it to the liver for removal. Therefore, high levels of HDL are considered good.
During a cholesterol test, triglycerides levels are also measured. Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood stream. They are the most common and are stored to use for energy. If you have high levels of triglycerides, usually your LDL cholesterol is high, too.
When it comes to cholesterol, remember: low LDL, higher HDL.
By maintaining a normal blood sugar level, a normal blood pressure and a normal cholesterol level, you can reduce your chances of having cardiovascular disease as a diabetic.