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FOR RELEASE: November 6, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

People With Diabetes Are At Increase Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke

Getting to the “heart of the matter” is important if you suffer from diabetes. That’s because people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke, and these attacks tend to be more severe than in persons who do not have diabetes, say officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

“In addition to causing blindness, kidney and nerve disease, and limb amputations, diabetes can also increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke,” said Adeline Yerkes, RN, MPH, chief of the Chronic Disease Service at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “While it is important to work with your doctor to regulate your insulin resistance, there are things you can do on your own to help reduce those risk factors that cause heart attack and stroke.”

Yerkes suggested the following actions individuals can take:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, your risk goes up for developing diabetes and heart disease. The extra strain on your heart increases blood pressure, raises low-density lipoproteins (LDL - also referred to as “bad” cholesterol) and lowers high-density lipoproteins (HDL - known as the “good” cholesterol) levels.
  • Maintain a physically active lifestyle. Regular physical activity will help lower insulin resistance, reduce blood pressure, and help maintain or reduce weight. While it is important to consult your physician before beginning a strenuous physical activity, most people can incorporate additional walking into their day as a quick and healthy option.
  • Monitor and maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Choosing to eat foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol will help keep cholesterol levels within a healthy range, while choosing foods that have low sodium along with a regular physical activity, such as walking, can help reduce or maintain blood pressure levels.
  • Control blood glucose by eating those foods that are low in sugar and salt and test your blood glucose regularly.
  • If you smoke or use tobacco, talk to your doctor about quitting. Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.

“Because they are at increased risk, persons diagnosed with diabetes should be familiar with the signs and symptoms for a heart attack and stroke, both of which are medical emergencies requiring immediate medical attention,” said Yerkes. The signs for a heart attack include uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes; pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, or arms; or chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath. If you experience these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

“Similarly, signs of a stroke are also important to recognize,” Yerkes said. These include sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body; sudden dimness or loss of vision, particularly in one eye; loss of speech, trouble talking, or understanding speech; sudden, severe headaches with no apparent cause; or unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness or sudden falls, especially along with any of the previous symptoms. If you experience these symptoms, you should also call 9-1-1 to receive immediate medical attention.

To learn more about controlling your diabetes and preventing the onset of heart disease, talk with your health care provider. For additional information regarding heart disease related to diabetes, contact your local county health department or call the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Chronic Disease Service at 405-271-4072.


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