ABCs of Diabetes

Knowing the Facts
Diabetes mellitus (MEL-eye-tus), or simply diabetes, is a chronic (lifelong) disease where blood glucose levels, also called blood sugar, are high because the body cannot make insulin or cannot use it in the right way. Insulin helps us use blood sugar for energy.

Diabetes can affect many parts of your body, like your heart, mouth, eyes, ears, and feet. Getting regular medical tests can help you and your healthcare team manage your diabetes to help prevent complications (problems) or find issues early when they are most treatable.

Working with your doctor
You can work with your doctor to make sure that you are getting the right tests to watch your type 2 diabetes and avoid problems.

Below are some tests about which you should talk to your healthcare team. These are known as the ABCs of diabetes. Together, you can decide what your targets should be.

The A1C test measures your average blood sugar control for the past 2 to 3 months. It measures the percentage of glycated hemoglobin (GLI-kay-ted HE-meh-GLO-bin) or HbA1c, in the blood. It does not replace testing blood glucose daily. 
 Recommended A1C Target: Less than 7% 

Blood Pressure (BP)
Blood pressure is the force of blood flow through your blood vessels. Having your blood pressure checked regularly and taking action to reach your blood pressure target can prevent or delay diabetes problems.

High blood pressure causes your heart to work harder. It also raises your risk for heart attack, stroke, eye problems, and kidney disease. High blood pressure is a problem that won't go away without treatment and changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Recommended BP Target: Below 140/90 mmHg

Cholesterol is a form of fat that is carried through the blood in two kinds of bundles called lipoproteins. It is important to have healthy levels of both. 

  1. HDL cholesterol - Called the “good” cholesterol. It may lower your risk for heart attack.
  2. LDL cholesterol - This is sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol. It can clog arteries and cause heart problems.

Triglycerides (try-GLISS-er-ides) are another kind of blood fat that raise your chances for a heart attack or stroke if your levels are too high. 

Recommended Cholesterol Targets:
HDL Cholesterol: More than 40 mg/dl for men
More than 50 mg/dl for women
LDL Cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dl
Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dl 

Cholesterol is influenced by blood sugar and blood pressure. If your blood sugar and blood pressure are high, your cholesterol may be high, too. Some steps that you can take to lower your cholesterol are: 

  • If you smoke, get help to quit.
  • Lose weight if needed.
  • Exercise most days of the week.
  • Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
  • Increase monounsaturated fats in your diet. These are canola oil, avocado oil, or olive oil.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe cholesterol-lowering medicine.