(BPT) - Like millions of Americans, your loved one may be living in a bad relationship this Valentine’s Day — the relationship between diabetes and their heart. People with type 2 diabetes are up to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people without diabetes. Yet, over half of Americans with type 2 diabetes are unaware of this link as they celebrate the holiday with those they cherish most. In fact, people with type 2 diabetes spend 1,000 percent more time planning for Valentine’s Day than talking to their doctor about their heart disease risk.

But, this year, caregivers who have joined the For Your SweetHeart® movement are making sure their sweethearts with type 2 diabetes know their risk and take action. Here are five ways to support and celebrate your sweetheart, so they can be around for a long time:

1. Have a heart-to-heart with your loved ones

Award-winning actress Angela Bassett has a heart-to-heart with her uncle Ralph, who has type 2 diabetes.

Don’t wait to open up to those you love. Award-winning actress Angela Bassett had a heart-to-heart with her uncle Ralph, who has type 2 diabetes, about managing his risk for heart disease. Bassett learned about the connection between the two conditions after her mom, Ralph’s sister, died of heart disease related to her type 2 diabetes. “For my mom, this knowledge came too late. But the good news is the sooner you know your risk, the more you and your doctor can do about it,” Bassett said. You can find tips for talking to your sweetheart about their risk on ForYourSweetHeart.com.

2. Know the facts

People with diabetes spend over 1,000 percent more time planning for Valentine’s Day than talking to their doctor.

Over 80 percent of adults with type 2 diabetes would change their diet, exercise and talk to their doctor if they knew they were at an increased risk for heart disease. Yet, more than half are still unaware of the connection. Endocrinologist Jennifer Green, M.D., associate professor of Medicine, Duke University Division of Endocrinology and Duke Clinical Research Institute, explained that people with diabetes are at higher risk for plaque to build up on the walls of arteries, which makes it easier for cholesterol to gather. Eventually, this reduces the space through which blood can flow, and may lead to life-threatening problems like heart attacks and strokes. “Diabetes is a progressive condition and even if blood sugar is controlled, the heart disease risk remains,” Dr. Green said. Encourage your sweetheart to talk to their doctor at their next appointment about available treatment options.

3. Show support at your sweetheart’s next appointment

Cardiologist Dr. Karol Watson and her father, Edward, who has type 2 diabetes and experienced a heart attack related to his diabetes.

Scheduling an appointment with a healthcare provider is an important first step to addressing the link between type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And you can lend a hand by going with your sweetheart. After her dad, Edward, who has type 2 diabetes, had a heart attack, Karol Watson, M.D., Ph.D., FACC, professor of medicine/cardiology, co-director, UCLA Program in Preventive Cardiology, decided to pursue cardiology to dedicate her life’s work to helping people with diabetes understand their risk for cardiovascular disease. She sees firsthand how overwhelming it can be for people to learn about their increased risk for heart disease, so she suggests bringing your sweetheart to help take notes and ask questions. People can start this conversation with their sweetheart by downloading the patient discussion guide on ForYourSweetHeart.com and bringing it to their next doctor’s appointment.

4. Make a diabetes- and heart-friendly commitment

Jacqueline encourages her sweetheart, Sadegh, to do all he can to manage his type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk.

Sometimes the sweetest gift isn’t a box of chocolates — instead, you can show how much you care by making a commitment to support your sweetheart’s healthy choices to help manage their type 2 diabetes and heart disease risk. As a self-proclaimed “cupcake-lover,” heart-health advocate Jacqueline modifies her Valentine’s Day celebration to help her sweetheart, her husband Sadegh, eat well, exercise and manage his blood sugar. Sadegh has type 2 diabetes and suffered a heart attack from complications associated with the condition. Jacqueline encourages him to do everything he can to manage his condition so he can be around for many more Valentine’s Days.

5. Spread the love

Talk to your sweetheart about resources available to them to help them get smart about their heart disease risk.

If your loved one has type 2 diabetes, encourage them to visit ForYourSweetHeart.com to take the Heart You Quiz and understand their risk for heart disease, so they can be around for a long time. Sign up to receive more information about type 2 diabetes and heart disease that may help them talk with their doctor at their next appointment about their heart disease risk and available treatment options to help manage it. Spread the word about the connection and show your love because, by having a heart, you might just save theirs.

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