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Preventing Heart Disease in Diabetics Takes Special Effort

COLUMBUS, Ohio – People with diabetes need to take more control of a healthy lifestyle to avoid becoming a grim statistic of cardiovascular disease, according to a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Medical Center. Compared to those without diabetes, people with diabetes are two to three times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, and without early and aggressive intervention, die from cardiovascular events in disproportionate numbers.

Doctor William Abraham
William T. Abraham, M.D.
Dr. William Abraham, chief of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State and a researcher in OSU’s Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute, says diabetes, in many ways, can be thought of as cardiovascular disease because about two-thirds or more of diabetics will die from a cardiovascular cause.

“Preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people with diabetes mellitus takes a special effort and awareness of the risk factors,” said Abraham, whose findings were published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Medicine.

He adds that treating diabetes and heart disease needs to be more of a concentrated effort. “For a majority of the 17 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, the odds are very good they also will develop cardiovascular disease, but strict steps to manage diabetes can also be effective for reducing the risk of CVD.”

In 2001, nearly 8 percent of the nation’s adult population was diagnosed with diabetes, an increase of 61 percent since 1990.

In reviewing several research studies, Abraham says evidence is very strong that diet and exercise play a large role in reducing the risk of developing diabetes. And for people who already have diabetes, a healthy lifestyle can prevent or decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“It’s more of a challenge for people with diabetes to exercise appropriately because of their altered cardiovascular physiology, but exercise along with a balanced, low-fat, low-calorie diet can be a strong defense against declining health,” Abraham said. In addition, weight loss can improve survival and is therefore an important goal for obese people with diabetes.

Abraham said diabetes has increased in parallel with the prevalence of obesity. One reason is the changing eating habits of Americans. Food is consumed today in larger portions than in the past, and levels of physical activity have decreased.

In August, Ohio State will open the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital to provide patients with another link to the research and clinical care associated with Ohio State’s heart program.

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