diabetes and heart disease

Beyond the Blood Sugar

Diabetes is an incredibly challenging disease to live with; while there is no cure for diabetes, with careful attention to detail, it can be managed. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes require daily monitoring of sugar levels and, for many, daily insulin injections.

Diabetes can have adverse effects on many body systems, such as nerve impairment in the feet. Diabetes can have severe consequences for eye and dental health as well as kidney and bladder problems. Unfortunately, diabetes can also lead to heart problems. The statistics for heart disease being present alongside diabetes are not encouraging, and the outlook is poorer for men than for women.

Diabetes May Affect the Entire Body

If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop many of the risk factors that lead to heart disease. This means that people with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease. Suffering a heart attack or a stroke can be life-limiting and even fatal. These risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The National Institute of Health suggests that:

  • If you have diabetes, you can protect your heart and health by managing your blood glucose, also called blood sugar. You can also protect yourself by controlling your high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you smoke, get help to stop.

The NIH goes on to state that those with diabetes are twice as likely as non-diabetics to have heart disease or stroke. There is some positive news, though, as medical researchers have determined the link between diabetes and heart problems. The cause is linked to how blood sugar affects our blood vessels and how these effects can lead to cardiovascular disease.

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Diabetes and Blood Vessels

As blood sugars flow through a diabetic's veins and arteries, it causes damage to both these vessels and the nerves that control these blood vessels as well as the heart. With dedication to their health, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of developing critical health conditions, including heart problems. By altering some of your lifestyle choices, you can better manage your diabetes as well as reduce your risk for other life-limiting diseases.

One More Reason to Give Up Smoking

We know that smoking can lead to various forms of cancer and that it reduces the amount of oxygen delivered to the body. Smoking, like diabetes, narrows our blood vessels. This may lead to an increased risk of lung disease and infections. Infections often occur in the feet and legs of those with diabetes, and sometimes, these infections take the form of painful ulcers. Further, these infections can be challenging to treat and may lead to amputations.

Monitor and Lower High Blood Pressure

As it is known that diabetes damages our blood vessels, having high blood pressure puts further strain on these vessels and the heart. Talk with your healthcare team about your blood pressure levels and how you can best keep them within an acceptable range.

This may mean making fundamental lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthier diet and exercising more. As high blood pressure can further complicate your diabetes or cause a heart attack or stroke, it's imperative to improve and monitor your blood pressure.

Understand What Cholesterol Is

Our livers produce a type of fat called cholesterol, and this substance is further divided into two types. The first type, known as good cholesterol, is called HDL, while bad cholesterol is called LDL. It's essential to keep our good and bad cholesterol within acceptable ranges.

Your doctor can determine your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test. Again, because diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels, further compromising them with too much LDL or bad cholesterol will likely lead to heart problems.

It is quite straightforward for most of us to reduce our bad cholesterol by limiting the fat in our diet; speak with a Registered Dietician or nutritionist about a heart-healthy diet focusing on cholesterol. For some with stubborn cholesterol, prescription medications might be the best course of action.

One More Reason to Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge for many, and for those with diabetes, it can be even more difficult. However, having excess body fat can lead to a wide range of health problems, including further complicating your diabetes.

When body fat is carried mainly around the abdomen, known as belly fat, the risks of heart problems and diabetic complications are even more significant. The National Institute of Health states that you have too much belly fat if you are a woman with a waist measurement of more than 35 inches or a man with a waist of more than 40 inches.

Again, a sincere conversation with your healthcare team about your diet, exercise, and overall health can lead to positive lifestyle changes. These changes will allow you to manage your diabetes better and reduce your risk for heart problems.