The majority of people living with diabetes understand that they have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. But the following statistics show clearly that there is a strong link between heart disease and diabetes.
- As many as 68 percent of people age 65 and older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease. Approximately 16 percent will die of a stroke.
- Adults who have diabetes have twice the chance of developing heart disease as people who don’t have diabetes.
- The American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the seven main controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The link between diabetes and heart disease begins with high blood sugar levels. Over time, the high glucose in the bloodstream injures the arteries, making them become stiff and hard.
The fatty material that builds up on the inside of these blood vessels can obstruct blood flow to the heart or brain and potentially cause a heart attack or stroke. Your risk of heart disease with diabetes is even higher if you also have a family history of cardiovascular disease or stroke.
Diabetes can also affect many major organs in your body, which can lead to an assortment of dangerous complications when left untreated. These medical problems include:
- Cardiovascular disease including peripheral artery disease (PAD) and stroke;
- Kidney disease;
- Harmful cholesterol levels, which can cause atherosclerosis;
- Damage to one’s eyesight;
- Nerve damage and numbness in your extremities which can result in amputation;
- Metabolic syndrome;
Healthy Lifestyle Habits
It’s important to have healthy lifestyle habits that can help you control your diabetes and prevent heart disease.
- Follow a healthy eating plan.
- Physical activity should be a part of your daily routine.
- Stay at or get to a healthy weight.
- Work with your health care team to manage your disease, which may include the use of medications.
- Know your health numbers. – blood pressure and diabetes.
Managing your Diabetes
Understanding your diabetes numbers will reduce your risk for heart disease.
- The A1C test reveals your average blood sugar level over the past three months. High blood sugar levels can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.
- High blood pressure makes your heart to work too hard. It can cause a heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
- There are two types of cholesterol LDL and HDL. LDL is often referred to as the bad cholesterol. It can build up and clog your blood vessels and can trigger a heart attack or stroke. Talk with your health care provider about your cholesterol numbers. Sometimes you may need to take medications to lower your cholesterol and protect your heart.
- Don’t smoke and quit if you do. It is particularly important for people with diabetes since both smoking and diabetes narrow the blood vessels, so your heart has to work even harder.