The Connection Between Diabetes & Heart Disease

Filed Under: Diabetes Complications, Blood Sugar
Last Reviewed 03/26/2014

The Connection Between Diabetes & Heart Disease

Did you know that people with type 2 diabetes are two to four times more likely to die of heart disease or stroke than adults without diabetes?

Even in the absence of other coronary heart disease risk factors (such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol or a family history), people with diabetes are much more likely to suffer cardiovascular-related events than people without diabetes.

Diabetes and Heart Disease Risk

It all comes back to blood sugar.

The most common type of heart disease, coronary artery disease, is primarily a disease of the blood vessels. It develops through a process called atherosclerosis, in which the artery walls become narrowed and hardened with buildups of cholesterol and cellular debris. This restricts blood flow and impairs circulation.

When blood flow to the heart is severely restricted, angina (chest pain caused by insufficient oxygen to the heart muscle) may result. Blood clots are also more likely to become lodged in narrowed arteries, causing heart attacks or, if the vessel leads to the brain, a stroke.

Type 2 diabetes accelerates and intensifies atherosclerosis because high blood sugar levels cause additional damage to arterial walls and make the blood thick and sticky. This further impairs circulation and places an extra burden on the heart.

If you have type 2 diabetes, leading a heart-healthy lifestyle is essential. Failing to do so significantly increases your risk factors of heart disease, but also for a host of others that are closely related to circulation.

More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Diabetes and Heart Disease

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