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Diabetes and heart disease: the dangerous duo

Tom Hanks’ disclosure sheds light.Local doctors say to know your ABC’s.

Actor Tom Hanks’ recent public disclosure that he has Type 2 diabetes sheds light on an ever-increasing health issue faced by millions of people.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 25 million people in the U.S. have diabetes. Of those 25 million, Type 2 diabetes accounts for more than 90 percent of the cases. If the trend continues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that in less than 40 years, as many as one in three adults could have diabetes. In addition, more than 78 million people have pre-diabetes — as Hanks says he did for many years — and may develop heart disease later on.

The American Heart Association says that heart disease and stroke — also referred to as cardiovascular disease — are the No. 1 cause of death and disability among people with Type 2 diabetes. In fact, at least 65 percent of people with diabetes die from some form of heart disease or stroke. Additionally, adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have cardiovascular disease than non-diabetic adults.

“There is a very strong relationship between diabetes and heart disease,” said Saadeddine Dughman, MD, cardiologist at Advanced Cardiovascular Institute, a Premier Health Specialists practice in Middletown. “It’s a well-known fact that diabetics have an increased risk of heart disease. They are so interrelated that the National Cholesterol Education Program puts diabetes on their list equivalent to heart disease. Meaning, if someone has diabetes then we automatically look at them as if they already have heart disease.”

The exact reason for the strong correlation between the two diseases is not yet known except that high blood sugar over time can have a significant impact on the health of one’s vessels and arteries, especially in the heart and brain. Moreover, patients who have diabetes often have higher incidences of many of the cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, Dr. Dughman said.

Although the number of people with diabetes is staggering and projections for the future are scary, diabetics have the power to direct the course of their health. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association consider diabetes to be one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Other controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease often found in Type 2 diabetics include: high blood pressure (hypertension), unhealthy cholesterol levels, obesity, lack of physical activity, poorly controlled blood sugar and smoking.

“Of the 25 million people with diabetes in the United States, 7 million of them are not yet diagnosed,” said Susan McGovern, executive director of Diabetes Dayton, a local, independent diabetes agency dedicated to the assistance and support of those in the Dayton area living with diabetes. “That’s why it’s important to know your ABCs: A1C, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol — especially if you have a family history. Being at a healthy weight and regular exercise are two of the most important things a person can do if they are at risk because they both help keep your blood sugars level.” (Think of A1c as a baseball player’s season batting average. The A1C test gives you a picture of your average blood glucose (blood sugar) control for the last two to three months.)

Ann DeClue, MD, a Premier HealthNet primary care physician practicing in Lebanon agrees with the role that diet and exercise play in controlling diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She said that several times a day, she has a patient come into her office who is dealing with both diabetes and heart disease. Dr. DeClue, who specializes in risk assessment and early detection of cardiac disease, said there has been an increase in the amount of individuals with type 2 diabetes, in particular, and she attributes that to poor eating habits and lack of exercise.

“Adopting a healthy lifestyle plays a critical role in delaying the onset of diabetes and keeping it controlled so that one can avoid damage to the heart, kidney, brain and vessels throughout the body,” DeClue said. “Even though we have a lot of medications to treat diabetes and heart disease, we still need to focus first of all on lifestyle changes. It is unfortunate that a lot of people have difficulty with that, but every time I see a diabetic patient we always go back to that baseline focus.”

Diabetes Dayton will hold its 41st annual Diabetes Expo on Saturday, Nov. 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ponitz Conference Center at Sinclair Community College. The event is free and open to the general public. In addition to information provided by local and national vendors and local agencies, free health screenings will also be available including blood glucose, blood pressure and the A1Cs and more.

For more information about the event, contact the Diabetes Dayton office at (937) 220-6611 or visit the organization’s website at They can also be found on Facebook at

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