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Tuesday, Feb.19, 2002
Contact: NIDDK Press Office
(301) 496-3583

New ADA Survey Shows Many Know Little About Risks Of Heart Disease, Stroke

As the American Diabetes Association (ADA) released a new poll showing that people with diabetes often know too little about their greatest health risks, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today renewed HHS' commitment to help those affected by the disease take steps to minimize their risks for heart disease and stroke.

"This ADA survey reinforces the need to help people with diabetes understand their increased risk for heart disease and stroke -- and what they can do to reduce those risks," Secretary Thompson said. "Not only controlling blood sugar, but also controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, is important to prevent heart disease and stroke in those who have diabetes."

The ADA-commissioned survey, released by ADA President Christopher D. Saudek, M.D., today at HHS headquarters, polled more than 2,000 people diagnosed with diabetes. Even though heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death among people with diabetes, the poll found that two out of three people with diabetes did not consider cardiovascular disease to be a significant risk.

Most knew more about disabilities associated with diabetes -- such as blindness and amputation -- than they did about cardiovascular complications that are often fatal. Many knew little about steps that they can take to reduce their cardiovascular risks -- such as taking aspirin or prescription medications, lowering their cholesterol and quitting smoking.

"It is very alarming to learn that 68 percent of people with diabetes are unaware of the link between diabetes, and heart disease and stroke," Saudek said. "Consequently, they are unlikely to be doing what they need to save their lives."

To promote a comprehensive approach to diabetes care, HHS' National Diabetes Education Program has developed the "ABCs of Diabetes" campaign. The A stands for the A1c or hemoglobin A1c test, which measures average blood glucose (sugar) over the previous 3 months, B is for blood pressure, and C is for cholesterol.

"People with diabetes know how important it is to control their blood glucose, but too little attention is paid to the role of cholesterol and blood pressure," said Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Research shows that this new approach, aggressively treating these three risk factors, can save lives."

As part of the "ABCs of Diabetes" campaign, the National Diabetes Education Program and the ADA offer a free brochure for people with diabetes with essential information about managing their health and a wallet card to help them track their ABC numbers. These materials are available free to the public through HHS at 1-800-438-5383 or www.ndep.nih.gov and through the ADA at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) orwww.diabetes.org/makethelink.

In August 2001, HHS released results from the Diabetes Prevention Program, a major clinical trial involving more than 3,000 people, that showed millions of overweight Americans at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes, can delay and possibly prevent the disease with relatively moderate diet and exercise. Those results show that prevention efforts can greatly reduce the impact of diabetes.

Diabetes affects 16 million people in the United States and costs the nation about $100 billion each year. It is the main cause of kidney failure and new onset blindness in adults and a major cause of heart disease, limb amputation and stroke. Type 2 diabetes accounts for up to 95 percent of all diabetes cases. Most common in adults over age 40, type 2 diabetes affects 8 percent of the U.S. population age 20 and older. It is strongly associated with obesity (more than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight), inactivity, family history of diabetes, and racial or ethnic background. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes has tripled in the last 30 years, and much of the increase is due to the dramatic upsurge in obesity.

HHS' National Diabetes Education Program is jointly sponsored by NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and 200 public and private partners.


Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: February 19, 2002