The link between diabetes and heart disease

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How to protect your heart and manage your diabetes.

People with Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. That’s because people with Type 2 diabetes may smoke, be inactive or have:

  • high blood pressure
  • unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • obesity

These combined risk factors can lead to heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

What is cardiovascular disease (CVD)?

It’s a term used to describe a group of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. The most common form of CVD is coronary heart disease. It develops over time and causes a build of plaque in your arteries, which causes them to harden and narrow. This in turn reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

How does having diabetes increase my risk of heart disease?

A build-up of high blood sugar in your red blood cells (cells that deliver oxygen to tissues) can lead to blockage and damaged blood vessels (channels that circulate blood in your body). If your heart is deprived of oxygen-rich blood, you may suffer a stroke, heart attack, or heart failure. If you have diabetes, it’s important to manage your blood sugar levels.

How can I reduce my risk for heart disease?
  • Your doctors and care team can work with you to determine you risk of developing heart disease. Together, you can manage your diabetes care. 
  • Check your numbers. Practice tracking your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and weight. This way you can let your care team know about any significant changes.
  • Get moving. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight. This can help keep your diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control.
  • Eat healthy and avoid eating foods high in fat and sugar, limit alcohol, and don’t smoke.
What symptoms does heart disease cause?

According to the AHA, if you have prediabetes, Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you should watch for the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain, feelings of chest tightness or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting or near fainting
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Accelerated heartbeat not due to physical activity
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Numbness or weakness in your legs
  • Pain in your arm(s)
  • Neck, jaw, throat or upper abdomen pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting