March 28, 2024

The Link Between Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: What You Need to Know

Maintaining optimal cardiovascular health is paramount for individuals navigating life with diabetes. It’s a reality that those managing diabetes face an increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as heart disease and stroke. In fact, CVD accounts for a…

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Home / Living with Diabetes / The Link Between Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: What You Need to Know

Maintaining optimal cardiovascular health is paramount for individuals navigating life with diabetes. It’s a reality that those managing diabetes face an increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD), such as heart disease and stroke. In fact, CVD accounts for a significant portion of mortality among individuals with type 2 diabetes, comprising two-thirds of all deaths within this demographic. This heightened susceptibility to cardiovascular complications underscores the importance of prioritizing heart health alongside diabetes management. However, it’s essential to recognize that while the statistics may seem daunting, there are proactive measures individuals can take to mitigate their risk and foster a healthier lifestyle.

By adopting a balanced diet, staying physically active, and prioritizing your overall wellness, you have the power to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Let’s explore how you can empower yourself with knowledge and proactive habits to promote a healthier heart while living with diabetes.

All About Heart Disease

Heart disease is common these days—and not only in people with diabetes. In fact, this is now the leading cause of death for men and women in America, meaning everyone should take the possibility of CVD seriously. Here, you’ll have a chance to read about the links between diabetes and cardiovascular disease, common forms of CVD, and more important information on heart disease.

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Heart?

If you have diabetes, there’s a good chance that you also have hyperglycemia (AKA high blood sugar). That can lead to many different health problems, including damage to your blood vessels and the nerves responsible for controlling your heart. 

cardiovascular-health-is-paramount-for-individuals-with-diabetes

Additionally, people with diabetes are more likely than others to have conditions such as high blood pressure, excessive LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides. All of these factors can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, and none of them have observable symptoms.

If you’re wondering how you to manage diabetes and cardiovascular disease, start with regular updates on your heart health. Healthcare providers can assess your cardiovascular disease risk by analyzing your weight, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. Along with that, you may go through tests such as an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram, and an exercise stress test.

Types of Heart Disease

Some of the most common forms of CVD include:

  1. Atherosclerosis: Under normal circumstances, blood vessels should be completely  unobstructed, allowing blood, nutrients, and oxygen to flow freely. Atherosclerosis causes blood vessels to narrow and stiffen due to a buildup of fatty plaque, potentially leading to coronary heart disease.
  2. Heart failure: The term “heart failure” is certainly alarming, and you should always take this condition seriously. However, developing heart failure doesn’t mean your heart has entirely stopped—instead, this occurs when your heart becomes too weak to pump blood like it should.
  3. Arrhythmias: The heart needs to receive electrical messages to continue beating. When heart damage or structural changes interrupt these messages, the result is an “arrhythmia,” or irregular heartbeat. In a worst-case scenario, arrhythmias can result in fatal cardiac arrest.

Factors Connected to Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Of course, diabetes isn’t the only CVD risk factor worth mentioning. People attempting to lower their heart disease risk should also pay attention to:

  • Excess weight. Obesity is a serious risk factor for CVD and is linked to issues with insulin resistance.
  • Smoking. avoid-unhealthy-lifestyle-to-affect-cardiovascular-disease-and-diabetesSmoking can seriously increase your risk of stroke and heart disease, even if you don’t have diabetes.

  • An unhealthy diet. Eating large amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol, trans fats, and sodium can easily contribute to heart disease.
  • High levels of alcohol consumption. Among its other health drawbacks, heavy drinking is connected to stroke, heart failure, and high blood pressure.
  • Minimal physical activity. Exercise is a simple, highly effective way to lower your blood pressure and reduce your CVD risk.

How to Stay Heart Healthy

By now, you should understand why people with diabetes must prioritize their heart health. Now, it’s time to learn how you can lower your CVD risk:

Diet

One of the most effective steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk is creating and following a healthy diet. While your diet needs to account for your nutritional requirements, these diets commonly emphasize fresh produce, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting trans fats and processed foods.

senior-walkers-practicing-healthy-lifestyle-habits-for-cardivascular-healthExercise

Physical activity can increase your sensitivity to insulin, making it easier to manage diabetes. Along with that, exercise can keep your blood sugar levels under control while reducing your risk of heart disease. That means getting at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week is wise.

Stress

Mental stress can increase your blood pressure, and so can unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating or binge drinking. If you regularly deal with stress, try relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation. Seek help from a mental health counselor if you need additional support.

Diabetes Management

A healthy diet and regular physical activity are cornerstones of any well-planned diabetes management strategy. Along with that, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your ABCs:

  • A: Get A1C tests on a regular basis to track your blood sugar over several months
  • B: Stick to the blood pressure target set by your healthcare provider
  • C: Keep your cholesterol levels under control
  • s: Stop smoking (or avoid starting)

Learn More About Diabetes Tips and Management

If you have diabetes, you’re probably concerned about your risk of heart disease—and for good reason. But if you follow the advice included in this article, you’ll have much better odds of avoiding CVD entirely.

Are you seeking ways to mitigate other diabetes complications while living a healthy life? If you are, US MED can help—we’re proud to be the internet’s leading provider of information on diabetes management. Beyond that, we can make it easier than ever for you to manage diabetes by providing a wide selection of must-have diabetes supplies!

 

Written by: US MED Staff

Shirley DeLeon Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist Clinically Reviewed by: Shirley DeLeon, RD, CDCES

Shirley is a seasoned and compassionate professional with over 20 years of experience as a Registered and Licensed Dietitian. She achieved National Board-Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist status, solidifying her commitment to excellence in diabetes care. Shirley’s passion lies in empowering individuals navigating pre-diabetes, T1D, and T2D to unlock their human potential and make sustainable lifestyle changes.

 

 

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