Ref: CHB/HB/61/16                                                              

Why are people with diabetes at increased risk for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)?

If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop Cardiovascular Disease than someone without diabetes.

Types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes - happens when your body cannot make insulin. This type usually affects children and young adults.

Type 2 diabetes - occurs when your body can’t produce enough insulin or the insulin doesn’t work properly. Type 2 diabetes is more common and tends to develop gradually as people get older – usually after the age of 40.

Diabetes is treatable, but even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. That's because people with diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, may have the following conditions that contribute to their risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

How Diabetes and Heart Disease are related

The connection between diabetes and heart disease starts with high blood sugar levels. With time, the high glucose in the bloodstream damages the arteries, causing them to become stiff and hard. Fatty material that builds up on the inside of these blood vessels can eventually block blood flow to the heart or brain, leading to heart attack or stroke. Your risk of heart disease with diabetes is further elevated if you also have a family history of cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Other heart facts to consider:

  • A person with diabetes who has had one heart attack has a much greater risk of having another.
  • A middle-aged person who has diabetes has the same chance of having a heart attack as someone who is not diabetic, but already had a heart attack.
  • People with diabetes develop cardiovascular disease at a much earlier age than others.
  • People with diabetes who have heart attacks are more apt to die as a result.

Protecting Your Heart While Living With Diabetes

If you believe you are at a higher risk for heart disease, don’t despair. There are several small lifestyle changes you can make to not only help prevent heart disease, but also manage your diabetes more effectively.

  • Be active. The American Diabetes Association recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. If you don’t have time for all 30 minutes at once, break it down in to 10-minute segments.
  • Consider low-dose aspirin. Talk to your doctor about whether you should take a low dose of aspirin every day, which may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and is recommended by the American Heart Association. However, there are risks, and aspirin therapy is not for everyone.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Reduce consumption of high-fat and cholesterol-laden foods such as fried foods, red meats, and eggs, and eat more high-fiber foods, including whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.A recent study conducted at the University of Warwick in England linked high-fat meals to inflammation in people with type 2 diabetes, which is associated with heart disease.
  • If you're overweight, try to shed the pounds.Seek the help of a registered dietitian to come up with a healthy but reasonable diet that you can maintain.
  • Keep blood cholesterol levels within target ranges. LDL (bad) cholesterol should be below 100; HDL (good) cholesterol should be higher than 40 in men and higher than 50 in women. Triglycerides should be lower than 150.
  • Keep your blood glucose level within the target range.Your doctor will help you to determine the right range. You can check on your efforts by having HBA1C tests at least twice a year; these reveal your average blood sugar level for the most recent two to three months. Most people should aim for an HBA1C of seven or below.
  • Maintain a controlled blood pressure level, preferably 130/80 or lower. Be sure to have your pressure checked during every visit to your doctor's office.
  • Quit smoking.Talk to your doctor about getting help when you're ready to quit.
  • Take all of your medications as prescribed.

If you have diabetes and develop heart disease, treatment — first and foremost — will include lifestyle changes such as those mentioned above. You might also need medication to lower your blood glucose, blood pressure, or cholesterol level, and to treat any heart damage. In some cases, you may need surgery or another medical procedure to treat heart disease. Treatment for each person will be different, depending on the type of cardiovascular complication that you might have.
Finally, if you develop any symptoms of a heart attack, seek medical help immediately because early treatment can decrease the potential damage to your heart.

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