The Link between Diabetes and Heart Disease

the link between diabetes and heart disease


The total number of diabetes-related illnesses have been rising through the years and the global statistics linked to this disease paints a worrying picture. The total number of diabetics is expected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045. As per the recent statistics, 3 in 4 adults living with diabetes are known to be from low and middle-income countries. The International Diabetes Federation estimates that roughly 1 in 2 adults living with diabetes are still undiagnosed. This disease does not spare the young ones either as 1 in 6 live births are known to be affected by diabetes during pregnancy.

Did you know?

Those with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from stroke or any other heart disease related death as someone without diabetes.

To understand the link between diabetes and heart disease, it is essential that we learn about the types of diabetes and how it is associated with diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a long-term (chronic) disease that affects how your body converts food into energy. Diabetes is classified into three types: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

  1. Type 1 Diabetes

An autoimmune reaction is thought to be the cause of type 1 diabetes (the body attacks itself by mistake). This reaction prevents your body from producing insulin. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 5-10% of all diabetics.

  1. Type 2 Diabetes

With type 2 diabetes, your body does not use insulin well and cannot maintain normal blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes affects 90-95% of diabetics. It takes many years to develop and is usually diagnosed in adults. Because you may not notice any symptoms, it is critical to have your blood sugar tested if you are at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be avoided or delayed by implementing healthy lifestyle changes such as:

  • Weight loss.
  • Consuming nutritious foods.
  • Being active.
  1. Diabetes During Pregnancy

Pregnant women who have never had diabetes develop gestational diabetes. If you have gestational diabetes, your baby may be more vulnerable to health problems. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. However, it raises your chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Your child is more likely to being overweight as a child or adolescent and to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.


What is Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to a variety of heart-related issues. The term "cardiovascular disease" is synonymous with "heart disease," but it encompasses all types of heart disease, stroke, and blood vessel disease. Coronary artery disease, which affects blood flow to the heart, is the most common type.

The build-up of plaque in the walls of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply oxygen and blood to the heart, causes coronary artery disease. Plaque is composed of cholesterol deposits that narrow the inside of arteries and reduce blood flow. This is referred to as atherosclerosis, or artery hardening. A heart attack can occur when blood flow to the heart is reduced. A stroke can occur when blood flow to the brain is reduced.

Atherosclerosis can occur in other parts of the body as well. It's known as peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, in the legs and feet. PAD is frequently the first sign that a diabetic has cardiovascular disease.

What is the co-relation between diabetes and heart disease?

Did you know? High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart over time. Diabetes patients are also more likely to have the following conditions, which increase their risk of heart disease:

  • High blood pressure increases the force of blood flowing through your arteries, which can damage the artery walls. Having both high blood pressure and diabetes increases your risk of heart disease significantly.
  • Excess LDL ("bad") cholesterol in the bloodstream can cause plaque to form on damaged artery walls.
  • High triglycerides (blood fat) and low HDL ("good") cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol are thought to contribute to artery hardening.

There are no symptoms for any of these conditions. Your doctor can take your blood pressure and perform a simple blood test to see if your LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels are abnormally high.

These factors can also increase your risk of developing heart disease:

  • Excessive smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Obesity and being overweight
  • Insufficient physical activity
  • Consuming a high-fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, and sodium-rich diet

Diabetes patients are also more likely to develop heart failure. Heart failure is a serious condition, but it does not indicate that the heart has stopped beating; rather, it indicates that your heart is unable to adequately pump blood. This can cause swelling in your legs and fluid build-up in your lungs, making breathing difficult. Heart failure worsens over time, but early diagnosis and treatment can help relieve symptoms and prevent or delay the condition from worsening.

How to improve your heart health?

These lifestyle changes can help you lower your risk of heart disease or keep it from worsening, as well as manage diabetes:

  • Maintain a healthy diet:  Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Reduce your consumption of processed foods and avoid trans-fat. Consume more water, fewer sugary beverages, and less alcohol.
  • Achieve a healthy weight: If you're overweight, even a small weight loss can help lower your triglycerides and blood sugar. Small weight loss is defined as 5% to 7% of body weight, or 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.
  • Get moving and stay active:  Physical activity increases your body's sensitivity to insulin. It is the hormone that allows cells in your body to use blood sugar for energy, which helps aid in diabetes management. Physical activity also helps in blood sugar control and reduces your risk of heart disease. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, such as brisk walking.
  • Maintain your ABCS:

A: Get an A1C test every 2 to 3 months to measure your average blood sugar.

B: Attempt to keep your Blood pressure under 140/90 mm Hg (or the target your doctor sets).

C: Keep an eye on your Cholesterol levels.

S: Either quit Smoking or don't start.

  • Control your stress: Stress can raise your blood pressure and lead to unhealthy behaviours such as binge drinking or overeating. Visit a mental health counsellor instead, try meditation or deep breathing, get some exercise, or seek support from friends and family.

Medical Disclaimer

Any medical information referred to in or through our blog is provided as information only and is not intended:

  • as medical diagnosis or treatment
  • to replace consultation with a qualified medical practitioner

To avoid health complications such as heart disease, consult with a diabetes care and cardiac specialist. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help you maintain healthy blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Staying healthy is not an option, it is an important decision that helps you live a life of fulfillment. Keep a check on your blood sugar levels by getting diagnosed early and you can steer clear from heart diseases in the future.