The heart of diabetes

Diabetes and heart disease are partners-in-crime in putting your life at risk. Stay clear of both

ECGDiabetes and heart disease share a close relationship. People with diabetes are at a greater risk of developing heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and other complications, than those who do not have diabetes. With increased blood sugar level, chances of getting coronary artery disease or ischemic heart disease become twice as high.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin, a hormone that regulates the blood sugar level in the body.

There are two major types of diabetes.

Type-1 diabetes is insulin-dependent and usually affects children.

Type-2 diabetes is non-insulin dependent, the more common of the two and usually occurs in people who are over 40.

Diabetes can cause serious health complications. If it is left untreated or not brought under control, it can damage several crucial organs of the body including the heart and become life-threatening.

According to World Health Organization [WHO], the number of people afflicted with diabetes will be more than double over the next 25 years, to reach a total of 366 million by 2030. The health issues of modern day like obesity, diabetes and heart disease have not only become rampant but are also interlinked. One of the biggest threats of diabetes is the onset of a heart disease. WHO states that cardiovascular disease is responsible for between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of deaths in people with diabetes.

What is the connection between diabetes, heart disease and stroke?

If you are middle-aged and have Type-2 diabetes, some studies suggest that your chance of having a heart attack is as high as someone without diabetes who has already had one heart attack. Diabetics have increased fatty acids in their blood. This predisposes diabetics to heart disorders and damage to small and large blood vessels [arteriosclerosis]. In addition, heart attacks in people with diabetes are more serious and more likely to result in death. There are also greater chances of developing heart disease or suffering strokes at an earlier age than other people, often resulting in premature death.

What causes heart disease in persons with diabetes?

People with diabetes often experience changes in the blood vessels that can lead to cardiovascular disease. In persons with diabetes, the linings of the blood vessels may become thicker, making it more difficult for blood to flow through the vessels. When blood flow is impaired, heart problems or stroke can occur.

What is dyslipidemia?

Risks of heart disease also increase with dyslipidemia, a disorder that almost always co-exists with Type-2 diabetes. It is a condition marked by abnormal concentration of lipids or lipoproteins in the blood. In other words, it means you have high cholesterol or high triglyceride levels. When there is elevated presence of LDL [low density lipoprotein] or bad cholesterol chances of developing atherosclerosis or plaque in our arteries grow. Such deposits in the arteries can cause heart attacks.

Preventing diabetes

If you are in the high-risk category [People with diabetes usually also report high blood pressure and high cholesterol] for developing diabetes, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing by keeping your weight under control and following a regular exercise regimen. Maintaining proper body weight is the best precaution for an individual with family history of diabetes. In addition, it is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Type-2 diabetes is usually easier to control. Some cases are treated with diet alone, others with diet plus oral anti-diabetics.

Managing dyslipidemia

Lipid disorder can be managed with therapeutic lifestyle modifications. Just as sugar can be brought down with exercise, diet and weight loss, so also bad cholesterol can be considerably controlled. Doctors recommend that LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL. Studies suggest that a class of drugs called statins are effective in treatment of dyslipidemia. Dietary cholesterol intake of less than 200mg/day and moderate intensity physical activity of 10-20 minutes starting with 2-5 times per week and settling at 6-7 times per week is recommended.

Preventing heart disease

Your risk of developing a heart disease will get substantially reduced if you can keep your ABCs of diabetes within limits.

  • A – An A-1-C [also called HbA1c] is a “blood glucose [sugar] check with a memory.” It indicated average blood glucose for the past 2-3 months. The American Diabetes Association [ADA] recommends that people aim for an A-1-C below 7.
  • B – Blood pressure [also called hypertension] plays an important role in keeping the heart healthy. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure.
  • C – Cholesterol indicates the amount of fat in your blood. Some kinds, like HDL, help protect your heart. Others like LDL, can clog your blood vessels.


When risk factors are eliminated [or reduced], the risk for heart disease may be reduced. Taking care of yourself and controlling your blood sugar can often slow down or prevent the onset of complications. Eating and living healthy can keep diseases like diabetes and heart disease at bay.


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