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FOR RELEASE: November 9, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Fight Against Diabetes and Heart Disease Linked
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

Cardiovascular disease kills two out of three people with diabetes, according to health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). A number of recent reports indicate that people with diabetes are still failing to meet recommended goals for blood glucose (sugar), blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Failing to meet these goals places these people at an extremely high risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death for persons with diabetes.

During National Diabetes Awareness Month in November, the OSDH Diabetes Prevention and Control Program is joining with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Diabetes Education Program, the American Diabetes Association, and the American College of Cardiology in urging people with diabetes to learn how they can reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease, which kills two out of three people with diabetes.

“Heart disease is taking a huge toll on people with diabetes, and most people living with diabetes do not realize it,” said Adeline Yerkes, chief, Chronic Disease Service. “By managing blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol, people with diabetes can protect their heart and reduce their chances for long-term health problems,” Yerkes said.

According to a national study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, only 7.3 percent of people with diabetes met recommended guidelines for all three risk factors: blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. Additional research by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) indicates that only one-third of people with diabetes meet the ADA’s goals for LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and that nearly half of all people with diabetes have uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Clinical trials have clearly demonstrated that lowering of blood pressure and LDL cholesterol can prevent heart disease and stroke in people with diabetes, but until recently the relationship between blood glucose levels and heart disease and stroke has been less clear. Independent studies have confirmed that higher levels of A1C, indicating poor blood glucose control, are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

“Heart disease and stroke are the leading killers of people with diabetes and it is our duty as public health officials to work to reduce these preventable deaths,” Yerkes said. “We know from survey research that patients are still not taking the necessary steps to combat their risks for heart disease and stroke.”

The OSDH Diabetes Prevention and Control Program and its partners are united in urging people with diabetes to talk to their health care providers about the “ABCs of Diabetes:” A is for the A1C test, which measures average blood glucose over the past 2 to 3 months; B is for blood pressure; and C is for cholesterol. People with diabetes need to ask their health care providers what their ABC numbers are and how to reach their target numbers.

Recommended ABC Targets include the following:

  • A1C - less than 7 percent. Check at least twice a year.
  • Blood pressure - below 130/80. Check at every doctor’s visit.
  • Cholesterol (LDL) - below 100. Check at least once a year.

“We urge people with diabetes to follow their ABC target numbers. They should make wise food choices, get daily physical activity, stay at a healthy weight, and take prescribed medications. People with diabetes should also avoid smoking and ask their health care providers about taking aspirin,” Yerkes said.

For more information on the link between diabetes and heart disease, contact the OSDH Diabetes Prevention and Control Program at (405) 271-4072 or visit www.ndep.nih.gov

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