Diabetes and Heart Disease
The link between diabetes and heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD) is complex and multifactorial. Understanding these profound mechanisms of disease can help doctors identify and treat heart disease in patients with diabetes, as well as help patients prevent these potentially devastating complications.
Diabetes is a prime risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Vascular disorders include retinopathy and nephropathy, peripheral vascular disease (PVD), stroke, and coronary artery disease (CAD).
Over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop heart disease. In adults with diabetes, the most common causes of death are heart disease and stroke.
Diabetes also affects the heart muscle, causing both systolic and diastolic heart failure. The etiology of this excess cardiovascular morbidity and mortality is not completely clear.
Evidence suggests that although hyperglycemia, the hallmark of diabetes, contributes to myocardial damage after ischemic events, it is not the only factor, because both pre-diabetes and the presence of the metabolic syndrome, even in normoglycemic patients, increase the risk of most types of heart diseases.
People with diabetes are also more likely to have certain conditions, or risk factors, that increase the chances of having heart disease or strokes, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. If you have diabetes, you can protect your heart and health by managing your blood glucose, as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Diabetes and Heart Disease Causes
Diabetes is treatable, however, even when the blood glucose levels are under control, it still greatly enhances the risk of heart disease. This is because, if you have diabetes, other factors add to your chance of developing heart disease. Various of these factors are:
Smoking raises the chances of developing heart disease. If you have diabetes, it is important to quit smoking since both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels. Smoking also increases your chances of developing other long-term problems such as lung disease. Smoking also can damage the blood vessels in your legs and increase the risk of lower leg infections, ulcers, and amputation.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
High blood pressure has long been recognized as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Studies report a positive association between hypertension and insulin resistance. When patients have both hypertension and diabetes, which is a common combination, their risk for cardiovascular disease doubles.
Abnormal cholesterol and high triglycerides
Patients with diabetes often have unhealthy cholesterol levels including high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides. This triad of poor lipid counts often occurs in patients with premature coronary heart disease.
It is also characteristic of a lipid disorder associated with insulin resistance called atherogenic dyslipidemia, or diabetic dyslipidemia in those patients with diabetes. Learn more about cholesterol abnormalities as they relate to diabetes.
A family history of heart disease may as well add to the chances of developing heart disease. If one or more of your family members had heart disease before, you may have an even higher chance of developing heart disease.
You can’t change whether heart disease runs in your family, but if you have diabetes, it’s even more important to take steps to protect yourself from heart disease and decrease your chances.
Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease and has been strongly associated with insulin resistance. Weight loss can improve cardiovascular risk, decrease insulin concentration and increase insulin sensitivity. Obesity and insulin resistance also have been associated with other risk factors, including high blood pressure.
Lack Of physical Activities
Physical inactivity is another modifiable major risk factor for insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Exercising and losing weight can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure and help reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s likely that any type of moderate or vigorous intensity, aerobic physical activity, whether sports, household work, gardening or work-related physical activity, is similarly beneficial.
Poorly controlled blood sugars (too high) or out of normal range
Diabetes can cause blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels. Medications may be needed to manage blood sugar.
Individuals with diabetes in combination with one or more of these risk factors are at even greater risk of heart disease or stroke. However, by managing their risk factors, patients with diabetes may avoid or delay the development of heart and blood vessel disease. Your health care provider will do periodic testing to assess whether you have developed any of these risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes and Heart Disease Symptoms
Heart Attack Symptoms
- Pain or pressure in your chest that lasts longer than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
- Pain or discomfort in one or both of your arms or shoulders; or your back, neck, or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating or light-headedness
- Indigestion or nausea (feeling sick to your stomach)
- Feeling very tired
Warning signs can be different in different people. You may not have all of these symptoms. Not everyone has pain and these other classic symptoms with a heart attack. This is especially true for women. They mostly have nausea and vomiting, feel very tired (sometimes for days), and have pain in the back, shoulders, or jaw
*If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor, call 911, or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.
Peripheral vascular disease Symptoms
- Cramping in your legs while walking (intermittent claudication) or hips or buttocks pain
- Cold feet.
- Decreased or absent pulses in the feet or legs.
- Loss of fat under the skin of the lower parts of the legs.
- Loss of hair on the lower parts of the legs.
Diabetes and Heart Disease Diagnosis
Medical health providers diagnose heart disease in diabetes based on
- The Symptoms
- Medical and family history
- Physical Examination
- Results from tests and procedures
- How likely one can develop heart disease
Diabetes and Heart Disease Prevention
There are several things you can do to be proactive about your health. Taking care of yourself is very important when you have diabetes. Some of the things you would do to control diabetes will also help lower your risk of heart disease.
Keep your blood sugar level under control
Controlling your blood sugar level will help lower your risk of heart disease. Many people who have diabetes check their blood sugar levels every day. This confirms that their medicines or insulin, diet, and exercise are working to keep their blood sugar in a normal range.
Diabetes, being overweight, and heart disease often goes together. Losing weight helps a lot of health problems. For example, if you’ve been told your blood pressure is too high, losing weight can bring it down. If your blood sugar level has been hard to control, losing weight can help.
Lower your cholesterol level
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body uses to protect nerves, make cell tissues, and produce certain hormones. All the cholesterol your body needs is made by your liver. Cholesterol in the food you eat (such as eggs, meats, and dairy products) is extra. Too much cholesterol in your blood can clog your arteries. You should limit the amount of fatty and cholesterol-rich foods you eat.
Increase your Physical Activity
Along with diet, exercise is very important for people who have diabetes. Diet and exercise work together to help your body work properly. If you’ve changed your diet to lose weight, exercising can help you lose weight faster.
Control your Blood Pressure
People who have diabetes often also have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a big risk factor for stroke. It also increases your risk of heart disease and kidney disease.
The same lifestyle changes that control blood sugar levels and lower your risk of heart disease may also keep your blood pressure at safe levels. Weight loss and exercise are important. The more weight you lose, the more you lower your blood pressure. It’s also important not to drink very much alcohol.
If your blood pressure doesn’t come down enough with diet and exercise, your doctor might have you take medicines to help.
Smoking is bad for everyone, but it’s even worse for people who have diabetes. That’s because it damages the blood vessels. If you have diabetes and you also smoke, you double your risk of getting heart disease. Worse still, if you keep smoking while you try to reduce other risks (such as losing weight), you won’t be able to exercise as much. This means you probably won’t lose the weight you need to.
Diabetes and Heart Disease FAQs
What is the connection between diabetes and heart disease?
The connection between diabetes and heart disease starts with high blood sugar levels. Over time, the high glucose in the bloodstream can damage the arteries, causing them to become stiff and hard. Fatty material that builds upon the inside of these blood vessels, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
How much does diabetes increase the risk of heart disease?
Women with diabetes have a 40% greater risk of developing heart disease and a 25% greater risk of stroke than men with diabetes do. Experts aren’t sure why the risk is so much greater in women with diabetes than in men with diabetes.
Why do diabetics have silent heart attacks?
When it comes to silent heart attacks, diabetics are particularly susceptible for a couple of reasons: Higher Risk of Heart Disease – Diabetic patients are at an increased risk of a silent heart attack in large part because the condition has already put their heart in a more precarious position overall.
How to prevent heart disease if you have diabetes?
- Keep your blood sugar as normal as possible.
- Control your blood pressure, with medication if necessary. …
- Get your cholesterol numbers under control. …
- Lose weight if you are obese.
- Ask your doctor if you should take an aspirin a day.
- Exercise regularly.
Why does diabetes cause coronary heart disease?
Over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. Therefore, the longer you have diabetes, the higher the chances that you will develop heart disease. People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes.
What is the relation between sugar and heart disease?
Too much added sugar can crowd healthier foods from a person’s diet. … Earlier research has shown that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can raise blood pressure. A high-sugar diet may also stimulate the liver to dump more harmful fats into the bloodstream. Both factors are known to boost heart disease risk.
What causes heart disease?
Heart disease is caused by damage to all or part of the heart, damage to the coronary arteries, or a poor supply of nutrients and oxygen to the organ. Some types of heart disease, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, are genetic. These, alongside congenital heart defects, can occur before a person is born
How does sugar lead to heart disease?
Over time, sugar can lead to a greater accumulation of fat, which may turn into fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes, which raises your risk for heart disease. Consuming too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathological pathways to heart disease.
What causes a silent condition of a heart attack?
A silent heart attack happens when the flow of blood is blocked in the coronary arteries by a build-up of plaque.
Are kids born of diabetic mothers at heart risk?
Diabetes in Mothers raises heart risks in Children. Risks were especially high for heart failure, high blood pressure and blood clots among children born to mothers with diabetes. The children of mothers with diabetes may be at increased risk of early heart disease.
How does fast food cause heart disease?
Fast-food has been associated with poor diet quality and higher fat, saturated fat, and sugar intake, which are known as contributors to heart disease. Fast food is also associated with a higher body mass index (BMI), weight gain, and less successful weight-loss maintenance.
Since most fast foods contain highly processed meats and refined carbohydrates, they tend to be high in sodium, total fat, saturated and trans-fatty acids, and cholesterol.
The combination of high fat, high saturated fat, high sodium, high levels of added sugar and low amounts of fiber is a pattern that is directly opposite the guidelines for a heart-healthy diet. Excess sodium is an important cause of high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
How does obesity cause heart disease?
Increased body fat contributes to heart disease, through the promotion of sleep apnea, thromboembolic disease, and onset or worsening of metabolic diseases that are major cardiovascular disease risk factors, including dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.
What is more dangerous, having diabetics or cholesterol?
Having diabetes puts you at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol. As you watch your blood sugar numbers, watch your cholesterol numbers too. High cholesterol levels can be dangerous. Researchers don’t have all the answers yet and continue to grapple with how diabetes and high cholesterol are related and which one is more dangerous.