The Correlation Between Diabetes and Heart Health
Although many people are aware of the high rates of heart disease in the United States, many others are unaware of the diabetes epidemic and the connection it has to the prevalence of cardiovascular disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 11% of the U.S. population is living with diabetes. That’s more than 37 million people, but that’s not all. Another 38% of the population (or 96 million people) also have prediabetes.
Think about that for a second. Approximately half of the adults living in the United States have prediabetes or diabetes.
Those numbers on their own are frightening, given the serious impact that diabetes can have on health and quality of life. When you consider that people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease or a stroke than those who do not have diabetes, the outlook for our nation’s health is downright scary.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition where your body is unable to control your blood sugar. This results in higher-than-normal blood sugar levels (also called blood glucose levels). High blood sugar can lead to a host of serious medical conditions, including circulation problems affecting the legs, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, and vision loss.
How Diabetes Affects Heart Health
Having high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves, which can lead to heart disease. People with diabetes are also more likely to have other risk factors for heart disease or stroke, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This situation puts them at further risk for heart problems. Many people with diabetes are also overweight, which is another risk factor for heart disease.
In addition to developing heart disease more often than non-diabetics, diabetics often develop heart disease at a younger age. Today, cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death for patients with diabetes.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes and Heart Disease
The good news is that the same healthy lifestyle habits can reduce your risk of both heart disease and diabetes. They include:
- Eating a healthy, whole-foods diet that is low in fat, salt and sugar (preferably plant-based or mostly plant-based).
- Not smoking.
- Being physically active. This includes regular exercise and avoiding long sedentary periods throughout the day.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight.
- Sleeping well. (Quality and quantity of sleep are important.)
- Limiting alcohol consumption.
- Managing stress.
- Getting regular checkups, including blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose.
Remember: Many of the conditions that are risk factors for heart disease are often asymptomatic. You won’t know you have them unless you are tested for them.
If you already have diabetes, then following the aforementioned lifestyle habits (and ensuring your blood sugar levels are controlled) can greatly reduce your chances of developing heart disease and stroke. Some further recommendations for people with diabetes are:
- Taking medications as directed by your physician.
- Meeting your blood level goals (blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure).
If you are concerned about your risk for heart disease, have symptoms or have a cardiovascular diagnosis, we are here to help. Our highly experienced cardiologists are dedicated to excellence in assessment, diagnosis and treatment to provide you with the most advanced cardiology care.
The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (318) 798-9400.