The first step to protecting from heart disease is by control your glucose. In the groundbreaking Diabetes Control and Complications Trial to determine the effects of glucose on complications, type 1 patients underwent intensive glucose control. A later study found these participants were 57 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease over the next 16 years.
Although the findings haven’t been confirmed in those with type 2, high blood glucose levels have been proven to increase the risk of heart disease in both kinds of diabetes. Says David Nathan, M.D., professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-chair of the type 1 study, “The major difference is that people with type 2 are generally older, heavier and more likely to have hypertension and abnormal cholesterol levels, all of which puts them at much higher risk for heart disease.” For them, prevention is even more urgent.
Keep your heart healthy by following the ABCs of diabetes prevention: Aim for A1C levels below 7 percent, blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg, and LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dl.
“Everyone with diabetes should know their numbers and goals, and get checked regularly,” says John Buse, M.D., lead author of the ADA and American Heart Association’s new joint statement on preventing cardiovascular diseases in people with diabetes. Start with a healthy lifestyle:
Eat less fatty red meat, cheese, butter, processed foods and fast food; Instead, choose more beans, vegetables, fruits and whole grains, along with lean meats and poultry, seafood, low-fat dairy and nuts. If you’re overweight, cut some 250 to 500 calories a day until you’’ve lost about 7 percent of your weight. “To do this right, ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian,” Dr. Buse says.