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What Are the ABCs?

People with diabetes have an increased risk of death from several causes, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

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In order to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with diabetes, you need better management of 3 critical factors. The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has nicknamed these the ABCs:

"A" Is For the A1C Test to Measure Blood Sugar

Short for hemoglobin A1C, the A1C test is a blood test that measures how your blood sugar levels have been averaging over the past 3 months. Depending on the severity of your disease, your A1C level should be checked about 3-4 times a year. Generally, your goal A1C should be under 7%, but goals can be tailored individually.

"B" Is For Blood Pressure

To reduce your risk of diabetes complications, NDEP points out that the goal should be to keep your blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg, unless your doctor sets a different goal for you.

"C" Is For Cholesterol

LDL (bad) cholesterol levels should be less than 100. People with diabetes should also try to raise HDL (good) cholesterol to above 40 (men) and 50 (women) and lower triglyceride levels.

Steps to Lower Heart Disease Risk

People with diabetes in the United States may not be getting the kind of care they need to prevent heart disease. But NDEP urges people with diabetes to gain control of their A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol. A good place to begin is by asking your doctor 3 important questions about your ABCs:

  1. What are my A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers?
  2. What are my personal treatment goals?
  3. What do I need to do to reach these goals?

Having diabetes doesn't mean you will develop other complications. You may be able to prevent them and add years to your life by managing your ABCs and following the treatment plan you worked on with your doctor.


American Diabetes Association

National Diabetes Education Program


Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition

Canadian Diabetes Association


All about cholesterol. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: Updated August 26, 2015. Accessed August 31, 2015.

Diabetes mellitus type 2 in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 10, 2015. Accessed August 31, 2015.

For people of African, Mediterranean, or Southeast Asian Heritage: important information about diabetes blood tests. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: Updated October 2011. Accessed August 31, 2015.

High blood pressure (hypertension). American Diabetes Association website. Available at: Updated January 4, 2014. Accessed August 31, 2015.

Step 2: know your diabetes ABCs. (A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol). National Diabetes Education Program website. Available at: Accessed August 31, 2015.

Last reviewed August 2015 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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