WASHINGTON (AP) - Two out of three diabetics don't consider cardiovascular disease a serious threat, a new poll says, even though heart disease and stroke are the leading killers of diabetics.
That may be largely their doctors' fault, says the poll commissioned by the American Diabetes Association. Among the diabetics surveyed, 52 percent said their health provider has never discussed lowering blood pressure, and 45 percent had received no advice about lowering cholesterol.
While heart disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, diabetics are at particular risk because high blood sugar damages their blood vessels. Two-thirds of deaths among diabetics are due to cardiovascular disease.
Yet the new poll, released Tuesday, showed diabetics are more aware of and worried about disabilities commonly caused by diabetes -- such as blindness or amputation -- than this most life-threatening complication.
"There is a feeling of 'it won't happen to me,"' the diabetes association concluded.
The 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," said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
Thompson used the poll's dismal results to draw attention to the government's "ABCs of Diabetes" campaign, which urges diabetics to get tested regularly for A1c (to test blood sugar), blood pressure and cholesterol. The diabetes association and American College of Cardiology recently launched a similar awareness campaign called "Make the Link."
About 16 million Americans have diabetes, the vast majority of them the Type 2 form that people aren't born with but develop over time. Being overweight and being physically inactive create the biggest risks for developing diabetes.
The survey of 2,008 diabetics was conducted between August and October, and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.