I'm off to Dallas today to take part in a special patient advisory council* for the American Heart Association, which is desperately trying to reach out to people with diabetes about heart health.

They've created a program called Heart of Diabetes (sponsored by Takeda Pharmaceuticals) and are busy gathering patient stories in video format. Now they're trying to figure out how to further get the word out, to people with Type 2 diabetes in particular, about their increased risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease (PAD).

They've posted a set of online tools that include a trackers for your glucose, blood pressure, medications and food, along with a family-tree program, and a set of online quizzes, etc.

heart-with-veinsIf you're an active Type 1 reading this, you may be tuning out about now.  Sorry, but you're not excused. Recent research confirms that the risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) in people with Type 1 remains "extremely high," especially for women. Ugh...

I don't like thinking about it, either.

But after connecting with the folks representing at the American Heart Association (AHA), I'm thinking this is an important public health campaign. Even if you are a Type 1, or a parent of a Type 1 child — or just about anybody on the street in America for that matter — I'm betting you know a few people with Type 2 who are on the fast track to a heart attack even as I write this.

The Challenge:

Approximately 21 million Americans live with diabetes; 90 to 95 percent of those are Type 2.  Among that group, at least 65% of deaths are due to CVD, such as heart attack or stroke.

Even though CVD is the leading cause of death in people with Type 2 diabetes, most are unaware of the connection between these two diseases.

The AHA also reports that on average, only 7.3 percent of people with diabetes reach all the treatment goals for their blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.  Whoa — that's low!

And btw, smoking doubles your chance of developing heart disease and multiplies your chances of having a heart attack or stroke by two to four times.

Potential Solutions:

Interestingly, a recent Kaiser study showed that giving PWDs a combination of two low-cost generic drugs, along with a daily aspirin, "can slash their risk of hospitalization for heart attack or stroke by 60%." The study participants were given lovastatin to lower cholesterol and lisinopril to lower blood pressure.

Earlier research indicates that for every ten-point drop in the systolic blood pressure (the top number), there was almost a 20% decrease in the chance of stroke, and a 15% decrease in the chance of heart attack.

I know some people are really down on statins, but the fact is: numerous clinical studies have actually shown that statins reduce both your chance of having a heart attack, and also dying from a heart attack in case you do have one. In fact, these studies show that statins may have an additional cardiovascular health benefit separate from their effect on lowering LDL, helping to reduce inflammation of the lining of the arteries.

But before we start popping all these pills, let's revisit nature's most effective method for heart health: exercise!

Clinical research shows that a moderate level of physical activity (several hours a week) can decrease the risk of a heart attack by over 50%.  But you do have to do something that raises your heart rate to achieve this.

Since your heart is a muscle, aerobic exercise can improve your heart's strength, in a similar fashion to the way weight-lifting makes your heart-of-diabetes-logobiceps stronger.

Trying to change people's behavior is rough going, I know, but I'm willing help the AHA help us PWDs prevent heart attacks in any way I can.





* Other members of the advisory council include Rachel Baumgartel, Sean Kelley, Scott Johnson, and David Mendosa.



Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.