Diabetes and heart disease as a combination is a deadly one. Did you know that adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to suffer from heart disease than those without diabetes? While it is difficult enough to deal with diabetes, when the person begins to suffer from cardiac problems, the situation becomes much worse. The American Heart Association considers diabetes to be one of the controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease (source). Read more to find the connection between diabetes and heart problems and how you can prevent them.
A link between Heart Disease and Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic disease that is marked by high blood glucose levels. Over a period of time, the elevated sugar in the blood leads to arterial damage that causes them to stiffen and harden. This is known as Atherosclerosis. High sugar levels also lead to plaque formation as those with diabetes also have high cholesterol levels. When the arteries get damaged due to plaque, the body sends platelets to try to repair the wall. Due to the narrowing of the arteries, this leads to a blockage which stops the oxygen from reaching the heart and the brain and ultimately results in a heart attack or a stroke. It is interesting to note that high cholesterol levels have already occurred before the elevation of sugar levels. Therefore, heart disease has already manifested before the onset of diabetes.
Risk Factors of Diabetes and Heart Disease
There are several risk factors when it comes to diabetes and the heart. Here are some of them.
- Family History
Those who have a family history of diabetes and heart disease are at a very high risk. They should be extra careful about their diet, medicines, and exercise. Those with Type 2 diabetes are at a risk of having a silent heart attack or a heart attack without any symptoms.
- High Cholesterol Levels
The LDL levels (bad cholesterol) determine the timeline of the onset of heart disease. LDL has been considered one of the most important factors in determining vulnerability to cardiovascular problems.
Smoking causes constriction and tightening of the blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow to the heart and the brain. Those who smoke and are diabetics, increase their risks of developing heart problems exponentially.
- High Blood Pressure
This is another significant risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. Chronically elevated blood pressure levels cause a majority of heart attacks.
Obesity is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes. Even those who appear lean or thin but have a high amount of belly fat are at an increased risk of developing heart disease.
- Sedentary Lifestyle
Those who are not active physically and have diabetes tend to develop heart problems at a much earlier age than their counterparts who are diabetics but who exercise.
Those who develop diabetes earlier in life have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems. Also, as one gets older, the odds of suffering from heart disease increase.
- Unhealthy Diet
A diet rich in fats, processed foods and with fewer quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables is bad for diabetes and for the heart. Following such a unhealthy diet will definitely cause diabetes and heart disease.
People with diabetes already respond negatively to stress as their sugar levels become high due to anxiety. Stress can indirectly increase the risk of developing heart problems as it makes one overeat or smoke or drink more.
More men develop heart problems under the age of 55 years. Women suffer more from cardiac issues once they cross 55 years of age.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Many people who have diabetes suffer from ‘silent heart attacks’ due to the nerve damage related to their high sugar levels. This is why regular screening is essential for all those who have diabetes. There are some symptoms to watch out for. If you suffer from any of the following, call the ambulance immediately.
- Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of a heart attack. It is also known as Angina. It feels like a pressure or painful squeezing of the chest. One might feel it in the arms, neck, back or the jaws.
- Nausea and lightheadedness
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Trouble seeing things or having double vision
- Sudden severe headache
Prevention of Diabetes and Heart Disease
There are a lot of things you can do to manage your diabetes and stop or delay the onset of heart problems. The risks are reduced by introducing lifestyle changes, medicines, and increasing activity levels. Here are some tweaks that bring positive results.
Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat food items, a high protein diet helps to combat heart problems.
- Healthy Weight
Shedding off the excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight helps to keep away the cardiac issues for long. Instead of a tough weight loss plan, sit with your doctor and chalk out a reasonable weight loss strategy.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking damages the blood vessels in the body and increases the risk of heart problems. Quit smoking to improve your health.
- Get Moving
Exercising for just 30 minutes five times a week brings down the risks of developing heart problems in diabetics. If you cannot exercise in one go, divide the activity into batches of ten minutes. It also helps to control the high glucose levels in the blood.
- Stress Management
Learn to meditate and not stress over things in life. Anger, jealousy, spite are negative emotions that affect the body negatively.
If you already have heart disease, take your medicines on time to prevent more complicated issues.
- Control the Parameters
To prevent an early onset of heart problems, keep your blood sugar levels and your blood pressure levels under control. Avoid too many fluctuations to prevent organ damage.
There are several treatment options to keep heart disease and diabetes under control. With proper lifestyle changes, effective weight management and efficient control over blood sugar levels, those who suffer from diabetes can live healthy, quality lives.