The A-B-Cs Of Diabetes & Heart Disease

African American woman grocery store vegetablesMany people with diabetes do not realize that having diabetes increases their chances of having a heart attack or stroke. According to the American Heart Association, at least 68 percent of people aged 65 and older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease and 16 percent die of stroke. Heart disease death rates among adults with diabetes are two to four times higher than the rates for adults without diabetes.

A history of heart disease in your family increases your risk, leading to death in two out of every six people with diabetes. Even more distressing is the burden of heart disease among children with diabetes who are likely to show signs of heart disease before the onset of puberty.

While you can’t change the fact that diabetes or heart disease runs in your family, there are ways to ward off the damage. Research shows that people with diabetes can lower their risk for heart disease and other heart problems by managing the ABCs of diabete​s—A1C, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol—and Stopping Smoking.

A is for the A1C test. The A1C test—also called the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycohemoglobin test—shows how much glucose is attached to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. Typically, red blood cells live for about three months. So, the A1C test is reflective of your average blood glucose (blood sugar) level over the past three months.

The higher your A1C number, the higher your blood glucose levels have been during the past three months. Elevated levels of blood glucose can harm your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.

The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7 percent. However, depending on your diabetes history and general health your goal may be different. You should discuss your A1C target with your health care provider.