Take Your Diabetes to Heart

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By: Steve Edelman

Heart disease is the number one killer ofall Americans, and it plays a role in thedeaths of nearly 80 percent of people whohave diabetes.

“Angina pectoris” is a medical term for chestpain that is the result of insufficient oxygencarryingblood supply to the heart muscle(myocardial ischemia).

If the heart is deprived of oxygen for anextended period of time, the heart musclesbecome severely damaged. This conditionis known as a heart attack, or myocardialinfarction. The lack of blood to the heart isusually caused by a blockage in one of thecoronary arteries, which direct blood to theheart.

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

The major cardiovascular problem in peoplewith diabetes is “silent” ischemia, whichmeans that they don’t have the warningsigns of chest pain when their heart is beingdamaged by lack of blood flow.

If you don’t have chest pain, then you don’tgo to the emergency room to seek help,and you will miss that important windowof opportunity to get aggressive therapybefore your heart muscles are damaged.

A life-saving “clot buster” medication thatunclogs the heart arteries is now available,but it must be given within four hours of thestart of the blockage. If given in time, thismedication and other life-saving therapiescan make a huge difference on the longtermoverall health of your heart.

Know the Warning Signs of Heart Trouble

The classic symptoms of lack of bloodsupply to the heart (myocardial ischemia)are:

  • Chest pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations or your heart “beating funny”
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pain in the left arm or jaw pain

Other symptoms may be vague andnondescript, such as unusual fatigue. Thisis especially true for women with diabetes.

Six Ways to Avoid Heart Disease

To be proactive about preventing heartdisease, you should

  1. Control your blood pressure
  2. Keep your cholesterol levels within the recommended limits
  3. Monitor your blood glucose levels and keep them on target
  4. Take aspirin, if your doctor gives you the okay (aspirin is not appropriate for everyone)
  5. Get screened annually for heart disease (earlier than for people without diabetes)
  6. Live a healthy lifestyle. Diet, exercise and don’t smoke

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