Heart Risk Assessment

Preventing Heart Disease

Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness. In the United States, 16 million people have diabetes and about one-third of them are undiagnosed.

The two most prevalent forms of diabetes are type I, which often manifests in a child or teen, and type II, which usually begins after the age of 30. Ninety percent to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type II. A rarer type of diabetes, gestational diabetes, occurs during pregnancy.

People who have diabetes cannot sufficiently produce or use the hormone insulin. The body needs insulin to carry glucose (sugar) to the cells so the cells can use it as energy. Without insulin, excess glucose builds up in the blood, creating a dangerous condition called hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

When the blood's glucose levels are high, other levels, such as cholesterol, trigylcerides (blood fats), and blood pressure, are also affected. Over time, these problems weaken the heart and blood vessels. More than 80 percent of people with diabetes eventually die from heart or blood vessel disease (heart attacks or strokes). Your outcome, however, can greatly improve if you adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Symptoms of Diabetes

Like high blood pressure, diabetes can occur without noticeable symptoms, and years can go by before it's detected. Ask your physician to assess your blood glucose level to see if you are at risk for diabetes.

When symptoms do occur, they include:

  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness in feet or legs
Preventing and Managing Type II Diabetes

The number one modifiable risk factor for type II diabetes is obesity. Approximately 80 percent of people with type II diabetes are overweight. To prevent diabetes, eat unrefined foods high in dietary fiber, keep physically active, and maintain a healthy weight.

Diabetes is a highly manageable condition. That means if you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of heart disease and other complications by following a heart-healthy lifestyle and keeping your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. Most people with type II diabetes can do this with glucose monitoring, proper nutrition, and physical activity. Sometimes people with type II diabetes need to supplement nutrition and physical activity with insulin or other medications to maintain the best control.

Steps You Can Take Today:
  • Ask your physician to check your fasting glucose level to see if you are at risk for diabetes. A fasting glucose level of 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.
  • Walk for an extra 10 to 15 minutes today.
  • If you have any other controllable risk factors for heart disease or diabetes, such as obesity or high blood pressure, read on to see what you can do to reduce and eliminate those risks.

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