Heart disease strikes diabetics
Posted November 17, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Diabetics need to be as concerned about their heart as they are about their blood sugar.
Women with diabetes are 2½ times more likely to have heart attacks, and 75 percent of adults with diabetes also have high blood pressure, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease.
Janet Puryear, 55, learned those facts through family history.
"My mother, my father, my oldest brother, two uncles and six aunts all had diabetes, but they didn't die from the diabetes. It was heart disease that they passed away from," Puryear said.
Puryear never thought diabetes would strike her, even though she was overweight and not careful about her diet. In 2004, she was diagnosed with the disease.
"I was devastated because all I had seen was death," she said.
Puryear learned that diabetes didn't have to be a death sentence, though, and started keeping it under control by trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Last March, she suffered a mild heart attack. The symptoms of it surprised her.
"The thumping and the elephant on the chest – I never experienced that. I had problems with my stomach, and I felt sick as if I had the flu," Puryear said.
In addition to her diabetes, she now keeps her blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
Puryear is passing on what she's learned about diabetes and heart disease in a nationwide public-service announcement by the American Heart Association. "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson picked her as the winner of a contest to give the PSA.
Her message is: Know your family history of diabetes and heart disease; get your blood glucose level, blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly; and prevent these diseases with lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
Puryear said she hopes to pass on all she's learned to her adult son and two grandchildren, so they can avoid both potentially deadly diseases.
"With the holidays approaching, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think that's the purpose: to talk to your family about your medical history," she said.