Diabetes & Heart Disease

12 July 2019

Dr Kim Tan, Consultant Cardiologist

Many people are not aware of the close connection between diabetes and heart disease. Among the few complications of diabetes, heart disease is one of the most common one. It’s so common that having diabetes actually doubles your risk for heart attack.

Diabetes increases your risk for many serious health problems and brings about many complications. People who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic heart disease among many other complications. The higher your blood sugar level is, the higher your risk of diabetic heart disease.

 

WHAT IS DIABETES?

Diabetes is a medical condition in which the body’s blood glucose or sugar level is too high. It is a chronic disease, which means it lasts for a long time and requires long-term follow-ups and monitoring.

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near our stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies.

There are different reasons why people get high blood glucose. The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin. This causes the body’s blood sugar level to rise.

In type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells do not use insulin effectively, also known as insulin resistance, or it is unable to produce enough insulin. This type of diabetes was formerly known as adult-onset diabetes due to its occurrence primarily in people over 40.

However, type 2 diabetes is now becoming more prevalent in young adults, teens and sometimes even children due to our sedentary lifestyles, food choices, etc.

 

HOW DOES DIABETES AFFECT THE HEART?

Diabetes can cause serious health complications and one of them being heart disease. It’s important to understand the three major ways on how diabetes affects heart disease risks:

  • Diabetes poses a serious risk for heart disease, similar to what smoking, having high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol does to your heart. As a matter of fact, people with type 2 diabetes face the same risk of heart attack and dying from heart disease as people who have already suffered from heart attacks. People with diabetes typically have other risk factors such as metabolic syndrome and obesity. Diabetes and these conditions can interact to cause harmful physical changes to the heart, hence further raises the risk of heart disease.
  • It has been shown that diabetes raises the risk of earlier and more severe heart problems. Furthermore, people with diabetic heart disease tend to have less success with some heart disease treatments, such as coronary artery bypass grafting and angioplasty.

TYPES OF HEART DISEASE IN PEOPLE WITH DIABETES

People with diabetes are at risk for two main types of heart disease: |

Coronary artery disease (CAD). This refers to the gradual narrowing of the arteries in the heart by fatty deposits, called plaques. If the plaque ruptures suddenly, the resulting blockage in one of the heart’s arteries can cause a heart attack.
Congestive heart failure. A chronic condition, this is when the heart is not able to effectively pump blood. Some of the main symptoms are shortness of breath with exertion and leg swelling.

These heart conditions are often related. For instance, CAD is a major cause of congestive heart failure. High blood pressure, common in people with diabetes, can also contribute to CAD and heart failure.

 

CONSISTENT FOLLOW-UP AND MONITORING

If you have diabetes, it’s time to make lifestyle changes to help prevent or control many of these risk factors. It’s important to continue taking any prescribed medicines as they can also lower your risk factor of diabetic heart disease.
Take action now as the good news is that many lifestyle changes help control multiple risk factors. Some of these changes include lowering your blood pressure, controlling your blood sugar level, your weight and even your stress level.
It’s also very important to follow your treatment plan for diabetes and see your doctor for ongoing care.

Statistics of heart disease and diabetes

  • Heart disease strikes people with diabetes almost twice as often as people who don’t have diabetes.
  • People with diabetes tend to develop heart disease at a younger age than people without diabetes.
  • Two out of three people with diabetes die from either heart disease or stroke.

Source: WebMD.com

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