Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Diabetes and Heart Disease


Am Fam Physician. 2003 Oct 15;68(8):1577-1578.

I have diabetes—why should I worry about heart disease?

If you have diabetes, you have a high risk for having a heart attack or a stroke. You are more likely to get heart disease—and at an younger age—than someone without diabetes.

There are things you can do to reduce your risk for heart disease. Learning about the ABCs of diabetes can help you control your condition and stay healthy.

What are the ABCs of diabetes?

A stands for the A1c test. This test measures your blood sugar over the past three months. It is the best way to know if your blood sugar is under control. Ask your doctor for an A1c test at least two times a year. Get the test more often if your blood sugar stays too high or if your doctor changes your treatment plan. The A1c goal for people with diabetes is below 7 percent.

B stands for blood pressure. High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. Your doctor should take your blood pressure at every office visit. The blood pressure goal for people with diabetes is below 130 over 80 (this is the same as 130/80 mm Hg).

C stands for cholesterol. “Bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL, for short) cholesterol, builds up and clogs your arteries. Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol level at least once a year. The LDL cholesterol goal for people with diabetes is below 100 milligrams per deciliter (100 mg per dL).

What can I do to reduce my risk for heart disease?

  • Ask your doctor what your ABC numbers are and what you can do to reach your target ABC numbers.

  • Exercise every day.

  • Eat less fat and salt.

  • Eat more fiber: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.

  • Stay at a healthy weight.

  • If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you stop.

  • Take the medicines your doctor prescribes for you.

  • Ask your doctor if you should take aspirin every day.

Where can I learn more about diabetes and heart disease?

American Diabetes Association

Telephone: 1-888-342-2383


American Dietetic Association

Telephone: 1-800-366-1655


American Heart Association

Telephone: 1-800-AHA-USA1


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Telephone: 1-877-232-3422


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Telephone: 301-592-8573


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and KidneyDiseases National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

Telephone: 1-800-860-8747


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2003 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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