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February is Heart Month


People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes (especially women) are at higher risk of developing heart disease, and at an earlier age.  Also, people with diabetes have a high rate of “silent” heart attacks, meaning they have no symptoms of a heart attack occurring (such as chest pain).  Therefore, it is important to be screened regularly. 

Heart disease is a general term that describes many heart conditions, but coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common.  CAD occurs when blood vessels in and around the heart are blocked or narrowed from atherosclerosis or plaque formation (hard deposits on the inner lining of your blood vessels). People living with diabetes are at higher risk, especially if your blood sugars have been high for some time. This can promote plaque formation to occur at a faster rate.

A heart attack, otherwise known as a Myocardial Infarction (MI), is when the heart is unable to receive blood which carries oxygen to the heart muscle. This can occur if the vessels around the heart are blocked or narrowed significantly.  If the blood supply is not restored, then the cells of the heart muscle will die, often causing permanent damage. 

A stroke, otherwise known as a Cerebral Vascular Accident (CVA), occurs when oxygen carrying blood cannot get to the brain. This can also be due to plaque formation in the vessels supplying blood to the brain or from blood clots that block blood flow.  Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells begin to die. If the blood supply is not restored, the affected part of the brain dies, causing disability and/or death.




Do You Have Diabetes? Protect Your Heart… Do Your Part!

 Ask your health care provider about the ABCDESSS to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke:
 A. A1C – Glucose control target is usually 7% or less
 B. BP – Blood pressure control (less than 130/80 mmHg)
 C. Cholesterol – LDL cholesterol should be less than or equal to 2.0 mmol/L
 D. Drugs to protect your heart - Glucose lowering medications that also are cardio-protective (SGLT2s or GLP1s); Blood pressure pills (ACE inhibitors or ARBs), cholesterol lowering pills (statins) and Aspirin (if indicated)
 E. Exercise – Daily physical activity which includes activities that get your heart rate up and alternate with some strength training 2x/week

 S. Self-Management support - getting or staying connected with diabetes education programs in your area can help support you

 S. Screening or monitoring for complications - this is why it is important to see your doctor, nurse practioner or diabetes education program regularly.  Early intervention is vital. 

 S. Smoking Cessation (if applicable)



A ‘Mediterranean’ diet rich in minimally processed whole foods, that incudes high fibre foods like whole grains, legumes/beans, fruits and vegetables, is low in added sugars and processed carbohydrates (breads/cereals/baked goods/snacks made from processed white flours and added sugars) and includes healthy fats from nuts, olives, avocadoes, fish & grass fed animals, has been shown to help manage both diabetes and our risk of heart disease. Click here for more information on the Mediterranean diet. 



For more information about understanding your risk for heart disease and the medications you may need to lower your risk, click here.

For some great information on keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy from Heart & Stroke click here


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