Remember learning your ABCs as a kid? Well, if you’re among the more than 34 million Americans living with diabetes, it just might be time to do it all over again, only these new ABCs have nothing to do with the alphabet and everything to do with managing your diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has long been an advocate for those living with the disease, and in 2015 they partnered up with the American College of Cardiology to generate awareness for what they called “The ABCs of Diabetes”.
Maybe you’ve heard about this or maybe you haven’t. Either way, this post is going to give you a quick-and-easy refresher course because knowing your ABCs is critical to living a healthy life with diabetes.
What are the ABCs of Diabetes?
They are three of the most important things you need to test, measure, and understand in order to control your diabetes as effectively as possible and minimize the risk of serious health complications.
A - This stands for A1C, a simple blood test that gauges your average blood sugar level over a period of 2-3 months.
B - This stands for Blood Pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a key factor in developing diabetes-related complications, including cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
C – This stands for Cholesterol, which if left unchecked can also contribute to cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and other serious problems.
So Why Are the ABCs So Important for Those with Diabetes?
For starters, uncontrolled blood sugar is at the root of virtually every major diabetes-related complication. Knowing your A1C score will give you and your doctors a pretty accurate idea of how well your treatment plan is doing in terms of managing your blood sugar over the long term.
Secondly, according to the ADA people with diabetes are 2-3 times more likely to have a heart attack or suffer a stroke than those who do not have the disease. That’s a lot of added risk and both high blood pressure and high cholesterol only serve to further elevate your chance of experiencing these complications. Testing and measuring your BP and cholesterol can help you and your care team take the appropriate steps to keep them in check and mitigate your risk for heart issues and other complications as much as possible.
What Should My ABC Numbers Be?
Your diabetes physician and care team will work closely with you to help determine what your individual numbers should be, however, there are some general guidelines that work for most people.
A (A1C below 7%)
According to the ADA, most people with diabetes should aim for an A1C score of below 7%. However, even small reductions in your A1C can dramatically lower your risk of diabetes-related complications. For instance, lowering your A1C by just 1% can reduce your risk of many diabetes-related complications by up to 35% and lower your risk for heart attack by 18%. Conversely, every point above 7% can double your risk of complications.
Your doctor will probably recommend you get an A1C test at least twice each year. It’s a simple blood test that can be given in your doctor’s office and will quickly measure your average blood sugar over the previous 2-3 months.
Of course, it’s also important to continue testing and tracking your blood sugar every day using test strips and a glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system. Regular testing provides vital information to your care team on how effectively insulin treatments and other medications are working, as well as how much your blood glucose fluctuates based on meals, activity and other factors - all important aspects of a proper blood sugar control.
B (Blood Pressure Less Than 140/90)
According to the American College of Cardiology, nearly two out of three individuals with diabetes are battling high blood pressure. As we’ve said, this can compound the risk of cardiovascular complications and other diabetes-related conditions. Most people with diabetes should do their best to maintain blood pressure levels below 140/90. Your diabetes physician will certainly check your BP during every visit, however, it’s also a good idea to get a home blood pressure monitor so you can test more regularly and at different times of the day. They run anywhere from $50 to $100, so you’re not looking at an inordinate expense.
C (Cholesterol Targeting an LDL below 100)
Your doctor will likely recommend a full workup at least once a year to measure your LDL Cholesterol (bad cholesterol), HDL Cholesterol (good cholesterol), and Triglycerides. Controlling your cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Everyone is different and your doctor may give you individual target numbers but most people with diabetes should aim for the following:
LDL below 100 mg/dl
HDL above 40 mg/dl for men and above 50 mg/dl for women
Triglycerides under 150 mg/dl
Have You Heard About The ABCDEs?
The American College of Cardiology has quite cleverly continued the ABCs of Diabetes as follows:
D is for Diet & Drug Therapy
We all know the role eating a healthy and diabetes-friendly diet has in controlling blood sugar. It also happens to be a great way to combat high blood pressure and keep that bad LDL cholesterol in check. If you have diabetes, you also know how important it is to stick to your insulin treatment plan (syringe or insulin pen) and any other medication prescribed by your doctor.
E is for Exercise
The ADA recommends getting about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Not only does exercise contribute to weight loss and better blood sugar control, it also keeps your heart healthy and that helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems.
One more thing. That small “s” in ABCDEs is for smoking. If you’re currently puffing away, now’s the time to stop. Smoking doubles the risk of heart attack in people with diabetes, and that should be all the reason you need.
We hope you enjoyed this brief lesson on the “ABCs of Diabetes”. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to keeping you informed and updated with the latest news and happenings impacting the diabetes community.
Visit us online today and save on glucose meters, test strips, lancets, insulin syringes, pen needles, infusion sets, urinalysis test strips, and all your diabetic accessories. Take advantage of our fast and free delivery on every order. Read reviews from some of our satisfied customers and see what they have to say about us.
Diabetic Warehouse is an online supplier of diabetic items and medical accessories. For more information or to browse a variety of products, including test strips, infusion sets, insulin syringes and pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.