Can diabetes affect your heart? Living with diabetes carries a higher-than-average risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Diabetic people develop heart disease twice as often as people without diabetes do. It's the leading cause of early death among diabetics- over 65% of people with diabetes die due to cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Diabetes is considered as one of the seven controllable factors for heart disease.

What is Diabetes?

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Diabetes Mellitus (DM), commonly called diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases, where the pancreas doesn't produce enough insulin or the cells of the body don't respond properly to the insulin produced. After a meal, the digested food is converted into glucose, which is absorbed by the cells. Insulin helps the blood-glucose to enter the cells. As soon as the glucose enters the cells, blood-glucose levels drop. If insulin isn't sufficiently or not produced at all, the blood-glucose levels rise. When this happens, the immediate effect may be lack of energy for the body's cells. Consistently high blood glucose levels may lead to serious complications that affect major organs in your body.

People with diabetes are also more likely to have Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). Doctors estimate that 1 out of 3 people over 50 years old have PAD. This condition develops when fatty deposits block or narrow down blood vessels in the legs, decreasing blood flow to your feet and legs.

ABCs of Diabetes

Diabetics who control their ABCs lower their risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke in the future. Whether you or someone you know has had a heart attack or a stroke, developed CVD or not, controlling your ABC (A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol) helps lower the risk of future heart disease or stroke.

A1C

Shows the Average Blood Glucose (blood sugar) or eAG (estimated Average Glucose) control over the last 2 to 3 months. Your doctor gets your average blood glucose levels for the past few months by measuring the percentage of A1C in the blood. Doctors recommend at least a 7% eAG. The A1C test should be taken at least twice a year.

Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Not only does hypertension (high blood pressure) damage your cardiovascular system, it puts you at greater risk of developing diabetes. Two out of three diabetic persons take prescription medication to control their blood pressure. Check your blood pressure levels at least twice a year.

Abnormal cholesterol (lipid) levels

Low HDL (good cholesterol) and high triglycerides increases the risk for Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Eating healthy, planned and sustained physical activity along with maintaining healthy weight helps improve abnormal lipids. Your cardiologist or diabetologist will prescribe medication if needed.

Lowering Risk of Heart Disease

  • Bring your weight down to a healthy level and maintain it. Obesity or being overweight is a risk factor for stroke and heart attacks;
  • Brisk walking for 30 to 60 minutes or an equivalent activity helps to lower blood pressure and maintain weight;
  • Cut down on foods containing cholesterol, sodium (salt), saturated & trans fats, and sugar;
  • Eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, peas and beans for fibre;
  • Stop smoking
  • Take medicines regularly- never skip medications.