diabetes testDiabetes, which is prevalent among older adults, significantly increases one’s risk of developing heart and vascular disease, including stroke. In fact, about two-thirds of people with type 2 diabetes actually die from complications of cardiovascular disease. “If you have diabetes, your risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke is the same as someone who has already had a heart attack,” says Bankim Bhatt, MD, chief of endocrinology, St. Luke’s University Heart Network. “In fact, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people without diabetes.”

Dr. Bhatt is leading an educational program at St. Luke’s to raise awareness about connection between diabetes and heart disease. The program, For Your SweetHeart: Where Diabetes and Heart Disease Meet, urges individuals to talk to their doctors about diabetes and encourages people to talk with their loved ones who they believe might have – or be at risk for developing – diabetes. St. Luke’s is working in partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim, which developed the national For Your SweetHeart campaign.

One’s risk of developing diabetes increases with age. In fact, for adults age 65 and older, about one in four have diabetes, according to the 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Statistics Report. The report states that of an estimated 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in 2015 among adults in the United States. More than half were among people aged 45 to 65 with the percentage of men and women being about equal. About 17 percent of people 45-64 have diabetes.

“Although diabetes is irreversible, patients can manage their diabetes by eating right and exercising regularly,” Dr. Bhatt says. “I tell my patients that everyone is capable of exercise. All they need is a good pair of sneakers to start walking.”

The report found that as of 2015, 30.3 million Americans – 9.4 percent of the U.S. population – had diabetes. Another 84.1 million have pre-diabetes, a condition that if not treated often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years. Both nationally, and here in the Lehigh Valley, diabetes and obesity, which usually accompanies the disease, are leading health concerns. Unfortunately, the incidence of diabetes and pre-diabetes is growing quickly.

“The good news is that people with pre-diabetes, meaning they have elevated blood glucose, can stop the condition from developing into diabetes,” Dr. Bhatt adds. “By eating healthy food, losing weight even a small amount of weight, and being physically active, you can bring your blood glucose level back to the normal range.”

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