Heart Disease and Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Diabetes significantly elevates the chances of developing heart disease. Educate yourself on the contributing factors and ways to reduce them.

Heart Disease and Diabetes

🩺 Heart disease is no laughing matter, especially for folks with diabetes. Did you know that the risk of heart disease death and stroke is more than twice as high for people with diabetes? That’s right, it’s a double whammy. But why is this the case? And, more importantly, what can you do about it? 🤔

The Diabetes-Heart Disease Connection

🫀 While all people with diabetes have an increased chance of developing heart disease, it’s more common in those with type 2 diabetes. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death among people with type 2 diabetes (source). This means we need to pay extra attention and take some serious action.

📚 One of the first pieces of evidence highlighting the link between diabetes and heart disease was the Framingham Study. This study examined generations of people with diabetes to identify health risk factors for heart disease. It found that diabetes, along with other health problems like high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol levels, and a family history of heart disease, could increase the likelihood of developing heart disease (source).

🤷‍♂️ So, the more health risk factors a person with diabetes has, the higher their chances of developing heart disease. In fact, the probability of dying from heart disease doubles or even quadruples in people with diabetes. For instance, studies have shown that even individuals with no other health risk factors for heart disease are five times more likely to die of heart disease if they have diabetes (source). Talk about a precarious situation!

The Culprit: Hardened Arteries and Atherosclerosis

💔 The most common cause of heart disease in people with diabetes is hardening of the coronary arteries, also known as atherosclerosis. 🏥 This condition occurs when cholesterol buildup narrows the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrition to the heart.

🌪️ When these cholesterol plaques rupture, the body responds by sending platelets to seal them up. Sounds like a superhero move, right? Well, not quite. These platelets can actually block the flow of blood and cause a heart attack. The same process can also occur in other arteries, leading to strokes or peripheral vascular disease (source) 😱.

⚠️ People with diabetes not only face a higher risk of heart disease but also an increased chance of heart failure. In heart failure, the heart is unable to pump blood adequately, leading to fluid buildup in the lungs, difficulty breathing, and swelling in other parts of the body, especially the legs (source). It’s a tough battle, but we’re here to help!

Symptoms of a Heart Attack and Peripheral Vascular Disease

❗ Now that we know the risks, let’s talk about the telltale signs. The symptoms of a heart attack, which might differ for women, include shortness of breath, feeling faint or dizzy, excessive sweating, pain in the shoulders, jaw, and left arm, chest pain or pressure (especially during activity), and nausea (source). It’s crucial to recognize these symptoms and seek prompt medical attention!

🦵 Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), a condition common in folks with diabetes, has its own set of symptoms, including cramping in the legs, hips, or buttocks during physical activity (intermittent claudication), cold feet, decreased or absent pulses in the feet or legs, loss of fat or hair on the lower parts of the legs (source). The lower extremities need some extra TLC!

Treating Heart Disease and Peripheral Vascular Disease

🍽️ When it comes to treating heart disease in individuals with diabetes, we have a few options up our sleeves. These include:

  • Dietary changes 🥕
  • Regular exercise 💪
  • Medication 💊
  • Surgery 🏥

🚶‍♀️ For peripheral vascular disease, a regular walking program, special footwear, blood sugar control (A1c below 7%), blood pressure management (aiming for less than 130/80), cholesterol control (aiming for below 100), medication when necessary, smoking cessation, and, in some cases, surgery can make a big difference (source). It’s time to put on those walking shoes!

Preventing Heart Disease In People With Diabetes

🛡️ The best defense is a good offense. By taking proactive steps to manage your diabetes, you can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Here’s what you can do:

  • Keep your blood sugar levels as normal as possible.
  • Control your blood pressure, and if necessary, get some medication on board (the target for people with diabetes is below 130/80).
  • Get those cholesterol numbers in check — medication might be needed to reach your goal.
  • Shed those excess pounds if you’re overweight.
  • Get moving with regular exercise, not just for weight loss but also to improve blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and to decrease abdominal fat.
  • Embrace a heart-healthy diet like the Mediterranean or DASH diet.
  • Kick the unhealthy habit of smoking 🚫.
  • Find effective ways to reduce daily stress.

🗣️ Remember, you have the power to take control of your health and reduce the risk of heart disease while living with diabetes. Your heart will thank you for it! ❤️


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📢 Spread the word and help others stay informed about the link between heart disease and diabetes. Share this article with your friends and family on social media! 💙✨