“People with diabetes often experience blood vessel changes leading to cardiovascular disease,” says Richard Pratley, MD, endocrinologist, diabetes and metabolism specialist at Florida Hospital. “Vessel linings may become thicker, making blood flow more difficult.”
With diabetes there’s a tendency for blood cells to clump, forming clots. A clot to the heart may cause a heart attack, while a clot to the brain may cause a stroke.
PROTECTING THE HEART
Staving off cardiovascular disease consists of preventing further damage to heart and blood vessels.
“The best prevention is keeping a sharp eye on cholesterol levels, blood pressure and glucose levels,” says Nandkishore V. Ranadive, MD, a cardiologist at Florida Hospital.
Patients can get this support from the Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute. Thanks in part to the generous support of community members, FHDI patients receive education on effective prevention and treatment. These measures involve lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, stress management and smoking cessation; medications controlling blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol; and possibly daily aspirin to ward off clots.
ONE PATIENT’S EXPERIENCE
In 1981, Bruce Arrow of Orlando, now 69, developed chronic pancreatitis (inflammation leading to permanent deterioration of the pancreas). He learned his badly damaged organ might not be able to produce enough insulin, which could lead to diabetes. Nine years later, Bruce developed the condition.
“I didn’t have any symptoms or need medication,” Bruce remembers. But his health concerns were far from over. A competitive athlete, Bruce knew something was wrong when he couldn’t run or play golf without experiencing shortness of breath. That’s when he was diagnosed with coronary heart disease, 14 years after his diabetes diagnosis.
“Several major arteries were blocked, and I needed coronary bypass surgery,” says Bruce. He was referred to George Palmer, MD, cardiovascular surgeon at Florida Hospital, who repaired six arteries.
“Seven months later, I skied in Utah and nine months later, I completed a race in Illinois,” says Bruce, whose diabetes is under control with diet, medication and exercise. Bruce knows generosity heals, and that’s why he’s an active FHDI supporter, passionate about helping others receive the same education and treatment. “My whole experience at Florida Hospital was amazing.”
WHAT CAN I DO?
- Get educated about diabetes and learn how to control it.
- Reach a healthy weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
- Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Exercising can help you lose weight and lower blood pressure.
- Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars.
- Don’t smoke. It’s a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
- Take medications as directed. Ask your doctor about taking daily aspirin.
- Ask family and friends to help you manage your diabetes. A little support goes a long way.