Diabetes and Heart Disease: How Diabetes Affects The Heart

Diabetes And Heart Disease

There are factors, some within our control and some beyond our control that can raise thy’ risk of heart disease in those who have diabetes

The word diabetes is automatically associated with high blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, diabetes mellitus is more than just a reference to high blood sugar levels. It is a metabolic disorder in which the blood sugar levels tend to be high either because the body does not produce enough insulin, the body cells do not respond to the insulin as they should, or both.

It must be realized that while persistent high blood sugar levels have the potential to damage the nerves and blood vessels resulting in damage to almost all organs of the body, it is the spikes and troughs of blood sugar levels that cause greater damage. In individuals suffering from diabetes, all these contribute to heart disease in the form of coronary artery disease (blockages in the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle), heart failure (the heart does not pump as well as it should) or diabetic cardiomyopathy (damage to the structure and function of the heart) and their consequences.

Persons suffering from diabetes are not only twice as likely to suffer a heart attack as compared to non-diabetics, but they also have a tendency to develop heart disease or suffer a stroke at an earlier age. Additionally, heart attacks in those with diabetes tend to be more serious and more likely to result in death. It is important to recognize heart related symptoms and seek immediate help if they occur. Amongst others, the signs and symptoms of a heart attack may include the following:

  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling of nausea or vomiting.
  • Light-headedness.
  • Sudden dizziness.
  • Feeling of disproportionate tiredness or lack of energy.

We need to be aware that there are factors, some within our control and some beyond our control that can raise the risk of heart disease in those who have diabetes.

Factors Beyond Control

  • Increasing age.
  • Family history 01 early heart disease.
  • Incorrect lifestyle. As compared to men, women were earlier believed to be naturally protected from heart disease till menopause. However, this is now nullified by the lifestyle one leads today.

Controllable Factors

  • Unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol: high LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and low HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Smoking.
  • Prediabetes i.e. a condition where the blood sugar levels are high but not as high as in diabetes. • Being overweight or obese.
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Unhealthy dietary habits.

A diagnosis of diabetic heart disease by the doctor is based on the presenting signs and symptoms, the medical and family histories, a physical exam, and the results from certain tests and procedures. Once diagnosed, the management of diabetic heart disease comprises essentially of lifestyle changes, medication and indicated medical procedures.

Keeping diabetes under control means keeping the blood sugar levels as normal as possible (not too high or too low) while preventing tissue damage, which could be caused due to too much sugar in the blood stream. The associated risk factors like unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood pressure also need to be controlled.

Heart disease symptoms like chest pain need to be reduced or relieved and complications like a heart attack need to be prevented or delayed and if feasible the damage to the heart and coronary arteries should be fixed. It is important to think healthy and live healthy to prevent as well as manage diabetic heart disease. However, lifestyle changes do not happen overnight. Steps have to be taken one at a time. Also, the goals must be specific and realistic. Some lifestyle changes are mentioned below.

  • Maintain a healthy weight by indulging in regular physical activity. Follow a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products and protein foods such as poultry without skin, nuts, seeds and beans amongst others. Make sure these foods are low in salt, added sugars, solid fats and refined grains.
  • Quit smoking. O Combat stress.
  • Add regular exercise to your schedule. Physical activity lowers blood pressure, helps control blood sugar levels, reduces stress and also helps control weight.
  • Take prescribed medicines regularly.
  • Undergo regular testing as advised by the physician and also undergo indicated procedures like angioplasty or a surgery when advised.
  • Most importantly, live right, be disciplined, practice moderation and stay in control.

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