DEAR ABBY: February is devoted to "matters of the heart." As president of the American Diabetes Association, I offer this message to your readers and to the 17 million Americans with diabetes: The "heart matters" when treating diabetes -- much more than people realize.
Two out of three people with diabetes will die from heart attack or stroke unless they manage their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. The following are the ABCs of diabetes:
(A) A1C, the test that measures average blood sugar over the past three months, should be less than seven, and checked at least twice a year.
(B) BLOOD PRESSURE should be below 130/80 and measured at every visit with your doctor.
(C) CHOLESTEROL (LDL or "bad") should be below 100 and checked once a year.
It's imperative that people with diabetes work closely with their health-care provider to determine what steps they can take to reach their ABC goals. Some people may have to make changes in their meal plans or exercise routines. In many cases, medicines are needed to keep the ABCs on track.
The American Diabetes Association and the American College of Cardiology have launched a major assault on diabetes and cardiovascular disease through an initiative called "Make the Link! Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke." Abby, please encourage your readers to learn more about this effort by calling (800) 342-2383 or visiting our Web site: www.diabetes.org/makethelink. -- FRANCINE KAUFMAN, M.D.
DEAR DR. KAUFMAN: Thank you for an important letter. Out of the 17 million Americans with diabetes, almost 6 million don't know it. That's because diabetes develops gradually, often without obvious signs or symptoms.
The most common symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are: frequent urination, unusual thirst, extreme hunger, unusual weight loss, extreme fatigue and irritability. Type 2 diabetes symptoms are the same as Type 1, plus: frequent infections, blurred vision, cuts/bruises that are slow to heal, tingling/numbness in the hands or feet, and recurring skin, gum or bladder infections.
There is a quick and easy test to see if you are at risk on the Web site: www.diabetes.org/risktest.