People living with diabetes have an elevated risk of developing diabetes heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 7 in 10 people with diabetes over age 65 will die of some type of heart disease, and about 1 in 6 will die of stroke.
While these statistics are truly staggering, there are things you can do to manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
This article will help you to understand your risk for diabetes heart disease and how you can lower it.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Heart Disease
The primary culprit of diabetes heart disease is “high glucose.”
Firstly, high glucose in the blood damages nerves and blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the heart and brain. From the tiny blood vessels situated at the tips of your fingers and toes to the larger blood vessels held within your heart, high glucose wreaks havoc on the body organs. Too much sugar in the blood can cause oxidative stress and inflammation to the blood vessels, which can make it easier to clog up.
Comorbidities and Other Risk Factors
Diabetes often brings about comorbidities that also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Here are some common ailments associated with diabetes heart disease.
High Blood Pressure
Multiple studies have shown a significant link between high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, when people have both hypertension and diabetes, their risk for heart disease doubles.
Abnormal cholesterol levels can lead to hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes a buildup of blood in the arteries. This accumulation of blood leads to blood clots and inflammation, which can cause heart attacks and stroke.
Lifestyle factors also play a major role in your risk for cardiovascular disease, such as:
- A poor diet
- Lack of physical activity
Protecting Your Heart While Living with Diabetes
The longer you have diabetes, the higher your chances of developing heart disease. The good news is that by effectively managing your diabetes you will also reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Here are some simple steps for protecting yourself from diabetes heart disease.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
A study published in Diabetes Care linked high-fat meals to inflammation in type 2 diabetes patients. Inflammation is associated heart disease. A diet rich in sugary foods is also thought to contribute to heart disease.
Here are some tips to reduce your risk of inflammation and diabetes heart disease:
- Lessen the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol, and added sugar in your diet
- Cut back on things like red meat, fried foods, and added sugars
- Fill up on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts
Exercise is wholly beneficial in managing diabetes and heart health. Regular physical activity helps to keep blood sugar levels in check and promotes a healthy heart. Don’t worry, you don’t need a gym, fancy equipment, or even tonnes of time. Any type of movement, from fitness classes to brisk walks to housework, will do the trick.
Shed Some Pounds
As mentioned above, diabetes, obesity and heart disease often go hand-in-hand. Research at Washington University School of Medicine shows that losing even 10% of weight can significantly improve heart health. Losing weight can lower blood pressure, normalise cholesterol levels, and even help to improve many of your diabetes symptoms. Start by changing your diet and exercising more. Talk with your doctor about a weight loss program that is right for you. You can also reach out to the GlycoLeap dietitians for personalised weight loss advice.
Manage Your Diabetes
Be sure to stick to your diabetes management program. This includes checking your A1C at least twice a year, taking your medications as prescribed, following up with your doctor regularly, and keeping tabs on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The GlycoLeap app is a great tool to help you stay on track with your diabetes management program.
Smoking is bad for everyone, but it’s particularly harmful for diabetes patients. It damages blood vessels, which is already a risk factor for diabetes, and it doubles your chances of getting heart disease. That said, quitting an addictive habit is no easy task. Talk with your doctor about getting help, so you don’t have to do it alone. You can also visit Smokefree.gov for tips and resources on quitting.
Diabetes Heart Disease: In Conclusion
The link between diabetes and heart disease is no joke. The good news is that by managing your diabetes, you also greatly reduce your risk of developing heart problems. The first step is to start with simple lifestyle changes, such as those mentioned above.
If you have diabetes and develop heart disease, you may need medication, surgery, or other treatment methods alongside your healthy lifestyle habits. Your doctor will help you determine what is best for you.
Finally, if you develop any symptoms of a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately. Early treatment will lessen your chance of heart damage.