There is a direct correlation between heart disease and diabetes. The probability of death caused by heart disease among adults doubles or quadruples if the adult also has diabetes, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Age figures into the equation, too. Of people sixty-five years old or older who have diabetes, 68% are likely to die from heart disease. Stroke probability is 16% among the same age group. Additionally, 40% more women with diabetes are prone to heart disease than men and 25% more women are likely to have a stroke if they have diabetes. The good news is that diabetes is among the seven controllable factors in preventing cardiovascular disease.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when blood glucose is above normal levels. Blood glucose is also called blood sugar and is created naturally by food intake. The body creates insulin which gets glucose properly into cells. If not enough insulin is naturally produced, blood sugar remains in the blood stream and can cause health problems, including heart disease and stroke.
Almost 9.5% of Americans have diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). That translates to over thirty million people and many don’t realize they have it. People with diabetes often have hypertension (high blood pressure) and other conditions that contribute to heart disease and stroke.
Why diabetes harms the cardiovascular system
The higher blood sugar levels that are caused by diabetes result in damage to blood vessels and nerves. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that leads to heart disease at stroke. Additionally, many with diabetes suffer from conditions that also increase risk of cardiovascular problems. In addition to hypertension, high cholesterol levels and obesity are contributors to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Diabetic dyslipidemia is the name of the cholesterol condition that diabetes causes resulting in a higher rate of LDL-C, or “bad cholesterol,” and the lower number for HDL, or “good” cholesterol. This is bad for the cardiovascular system because excess amounts of cholesterol can clog arteries and prevent the flow of oxygen-carrying blood to the brain and throughout the body. High cholesterol is very common among those with diabetes, increasing the possibility that they will develop heart problems.
Obesity and low rates of physical activity are found in those with diabetes and both contribute to heart attacks and stroke. It contributes to insulin resistance, as well as high blood pressure. Limited physical activity also contributes to diabetes as well as cardiovascular issues. These are both treatable.
Smoking increases blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Stopping smoking not only helps the cardiovascular system but also lowers blood sugar, helping two conditions at once.
The reason that diabetes is included in the list of treatable conditions associated with heart disease and stroke is that both lifestyle changes and medication can be used to limit it. As with non-diabetes-related cardiovascular treatment, increasing physical activity helps reduce the onset of Type 2 diabetes. It also lowers blood pressure which is good for the heart and lowers the body’s resistance of insulin. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise that could include housework or work related activity five times a week is considered good for the heart. For those whose physical exercise is more intense, twenty-five minutes three times a week is considered the proper amount.
Medication is prescribed depending upon the type of diabetes to be treated. Type 1 diabetes requires daily insulin because the body doesn’t make it at all. Lifestyle changes and moderate diabetes medication may be prescribed for those with Type 2 diabetes, while treating gestational diabetes, which may occur during pregnancy, could also require a combination of lifestyle changes and medicine.
Heart attacks are the number one cause of death among Americans and strokes rank fifth. Controlling diabetes lowers one area of risk for cardiovascular disease and is well worth pursuing with the guidance of a physician and cardiologist.
To learn more about the impact of diabetes on cardiovascular health and treatment options, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.