HCA image If you've ever taken a class to learn CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, you probably remember the ABCs: A is for airway, B for breathing, C for carotid pulse and chest compressions. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) also has their own ABCs.

Diabetics at Risk for Heart Disease

People with diabetes have a 2-fold increased risk of death and a 1.5 to 5-fold increased risk of heart disease death.

Heart disease results from diabetes when high blood-sugar levels lead to premature hardening of arteries throughout the body. The widespread buildup of plaque contributes to a life expectancy in diabetics that is shortened by about 8 years.

What Are the ABCs?

In order to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with diabetes, we need better management of three critical factors. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has nicknamed these the ABCs:

"A" Is For the A1C Test to Measure Blood Sugar

Short for hemoglobin A1C, the A1C test is a blood test that measures how your blood sugar levels have been averaging over the past couple months. Depending on the severity of your disease, your A1C level should be checked about three to four times a year.

"B" Is For Blood Pressure

In people with diabetes the threshold for starting high blood pressure therapy is 130/80.

"C" Is For Cholesterol

Guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program say that LDL (bad) cholesterol levels should be less than 100, the same level recommended for patients with coronary heart disease. People with diabetes should also try to raise HDL (good) cholesterol (above 40) and lower triglyceride levels.

Steps to Lower Heart Disease Risk

People with diabetes in the United States may not be getting the kind of care they need to prevent heart disease. But NDEP's campaign urges people with diabetes to gain control of their A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol. A good place to begin is by asking your healthcare provider three important questions about your ABCs:

  1. What are my A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers?
  2. What are my personal treatment goals?
  3. What do I need to do to reach these goals?

Just because you have diabetes does not mean you have to die prematurely from heart disease or stroke. Managing the diabetic ABCs can make a real difference.