Relation Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

While relating heart disease and diabetes, a renowned Cardiologist from Gurgaon says:

“People having diabetes develop a cardiovascular disease called as ‘diabetic heart disease’ (DHD). When compared to non-diabetics, people having diabetes at a younger age are at higher risk of heart disease.”

This statement applies to both type 1 and 2 patients- both female and male. The increase in blood glucose levels increases the risk. The high glucose level in the blood leads to deposition of fatty materials on inside walls of blood vessels leading to hardening of blood vessels and clogging a condition known as atherosclerosis.

Just like alcohol, smoking, diabetes and high blood cholesterol, diabetes increases the risk of heart attacks. When these elements are combined with different risk factors, like obesity, diabetes causes harmful. Patients with diabetes are less receptive to heart treatment like bypass surgery and angioplasty.

How are Diabetes and Heart Disease Related?

There are four types of heart diseases common in people with diabetes:

1. Ischemic Heart Disease: This is caused by thickening or hardening of walls of the arteries which are blood vessels that carries blood to the heart. Plague gets deposited on the walls of blood vessels and is known as atherosclerosis.

2. Congestive Heart Failure: It happens when a heart is not able to adequately pump the blood to meet the needs of the body. This occurs due to congestive heart failure where the fluid builds up inside the body cells.

3. Cardiomyopathy: This is a situation where the heart muscles get damaged, thereby leading to improper functioning of the heart.

4. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): This disease takes place when the blood vessels become narrow in the legs due to blockage by fat deposits resulting in an inadequate blood circulation in the feet and legs. This may lead to amputation of the feet or leg, or even increase the chances of heart attack.

What’s the outlook? – Diabetes and Heart Disease

Patients who have diabetes can reduce their risk of heart diseases by talking with the doctor about any prescribed medicines either for preventing or for controlling the risk factors and by making certain lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet, physical activity, and stress management.

Take Action

If you are addicted to smoking, it’s time to quit now. Consult with your doctor and talk about it. If you have tried to quit the smoking habit before, it’s not too late. Many people have tried quitting several times before they kick start for a good habit.

Almost every individual with diabetes can benefit by doing more exercise. It keeps your heart healthy and controls the sugar level in your blood. Even a brisk walking daily for 20 minutes is fruitful. So there is no need of a gym anymore.

If you are an inactive individual, ask your doctor on how to get started. Your doctor will let you know what is safe for you to do.

Most of the diabetic patients take medicine to reduce their blood pressure or to improve cholesterol levels. A daily low-dose of aspirin is recommended by the doctor to protect against heart disease.

Be sure to be in touch with your doctor and be regular in your medical checkups. Attend all your appointments and let your doctor know how you are doing. Together you can make up a healthy heart.

Diabetics – Are You a Heart Attack Waiting to Happen?

Diabetes is sneaky. Most patients feel fine, even with their blood sugar 50-100 points too high.

But behind the scenes, much is happening. By the time a person is diagnosed with diabetes, the risk of having a heart attack has already soared as high as that of a person who has already suffered one. And sometimes a diabetic has already had a heart attack without even knowing.

How is this possible? Doesn’t everyone with a heart attack clutch his chest in agony and fall to the ground? No! Especially in diabetics, heart attacks may be brushed off as something else: heartburn, indigestion, fatigue, hypoglycemia.

Diabetes damages blood vessels, particularly coronary arteries – the arteries that carry blood and oxygen to the heart muscle itself. Diabetes also damages nerves – including the nerves that alert a person to cardiac ischemia (lack of oxygen-carrying blood to the heart).

Do you remember what it feels like to run so hard that your leg muscles cramp and become weak? That’s what happens to the heart when it can’t get enough oxygen. But if you can’t feel the damage occurring, how will you know?

Leprosy and diabetes have this in common: nerve damage may occur to the degree that a person is unaware they are hurting themselves. Both lepers and diabetics may lose toes or even feet due to untreated injuries. I’ve had diabetics step on a tack and not even feel it.

The heart can be damaged on this basis as well. Classic symptoms of heart disease may be minimal or absent. As a diabetic, you may have no chest pain, no arm pain, no shortness of breath. Or you may experience something as mild as the heartburn you had after eating spaghetti last weekend. Possibly, you may have sweating and nausea that you attribute to a low blood sugar.

Knowing all this, what should you do?

Hopefully you have a doctor who you have partnered with in your care. If not, find one right away. If your doctor has not suggested an annual EKG, request one yourself. If you experience chest pain, heartburn, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, fatigue, or other symptoms, see your doctor to make sure they are not coming from your heart.

Diabetes often coexists with other risk factors for heart disease. If you smoke, you assuredly are a heart attack waiting to happen. Make sure your blood pressure is under control. Know what your cholesterol level is and ask your doctor how to lower it. If you’re overweight, aim to lose at least 5% of your body weight.

Being aware of the risk is the first step. Now do yourself a favor, and take good care of yourself.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.