Diabetes and Heart Disease: What's the connection?

People with diabetes and prediabetes are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the primary cause of death among people with type 2 diabetes. In 2019 in the U.S., 1.5 million deaths were directly related to diabetes according to the World Health Organization. The correlation between type 2 diabetes and heart disease begins with elevated glucose (blood sugar) levels. 

Over time, high glucose levels damage the arteries, forming atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty material builds up on the inside of the arteries, hardening their inner walls.  Atherosclerosis eventually blocks blood flow to the heart or brain, causing a stroke or possibly, a fatal heart attack. The risk is higher if you have a family history of heart disease. Some risk factors of heart disease can be a family history of diabetes, tobacco use (smoking), inadequate physical activity, and obesity. Eating healthy and medications can certainly improve this condition but it’s not a cure-all, especially in people with type 2 diabetes. Those with type 2 diabetes are especially prone to other chronic conditions that affect the heart. 

There are several ways to treat heart disease in people with diabetes. Exercise is key and can improve blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. Low-dose aspirin therapy is another option and can be beneficial to people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who are over age 40. 

High blood pressure is also a contributing factor for heart disease among people with diabetes as it places a strain on the heart and blood vessels. This can lead to complications such as a stroke, vision problems, kidney issues, and a heart attack. People with both diabetes and high blood pressure are twice as likely to develop heart disease, compared to people without diabetes. Symptoms of a heart attack include feeling dizzy and faint, experiencing shortness of breath, and chest pain. Managing stress is highly important, especially in people with type 2 diabetes. That’s because stress can trigger diabetes-related complications. Simple ways to minimize stress can include exercise,  proper meal planning, and developing relaxation techniques.

Topics: Diabetes

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