It’s not uncommon for diabetes and heart disease to be grouped together when it comes to medical conditions. In fact, the American Heart Association lists diabetes as one of the seven controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Heart disease and stroke are actually the leading causes of death and disability for people with diabetes with 65 percent of people with diabetes dying from some form of heart disease.
But, why? How does diabetes factor into the list of interlinked factors that lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke?
What is Diabetes and How Does it Affect Your Heart’s Health?
Of course there are two types of diabetes and both have their challenges.
Type 1 diabetes is often associated with insulin dependence.
This is because type 1 diabetics produce either little or no insulin at all, and insulin is the hormone responsible for carrying glucose stores to cells all over the body for energy.
Without insulin, blood sugar levels remain abnormally high, and can be incredibly damaging to arteries, leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) if high blood sugar goes unchecked and untreated.
This, in turn, can lead to heart disease.
The cause of Type 1 diabetes is still somewhat a mystery to doctors. However, they DO know that Type 1 diabetes could come about when a virus tells the immune system to attack the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes can be genetic, but is mainly preventable and often has a later onset in life. Type 2 diabetes typically comes as a result of obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Things such as not eating healthy and not getting enough exercise can lead to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can lead to the same problems as Type 1 diabetes and ultimately heart disease.
Diabetes and Heart Disease, How they Are Linked?
When there is nothing to control the levels of sugar in the blood, diabetics are prone to more extreme high and low blood sugars that the body has no means of controlling.
Think of it this way: your insulin is responsible for taking the carbs and sugars your cells need for energy and feeding them to your body’s cells so that they can stay alive.
If insulin isn’t around to act as a leader for this blood sugar, or a caretaker for these cells, they essentially “run amok” and end up in the blood stream in overwhelming amounts.
It’s this build-up of excess blood sugar that can cause artery hardening, and negative effects on the blood vessels of the heart. This in turn leads to high blood pressure and artery blockage.
High blood glucose creates an overwhelming environment for your liver, which will resort to storing the glucose as fat.
This fat can circulate in the blood, damaging artery walls and creating blockages in the blood vessels.
That environment means if you have diabetes, you’re at risk for:
– high blood pressure
– high cholesterol
– atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
– kidney damage
What Can You Do to Prevent Heart Disease if You Have Diabetes?
If you already have diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, there are certain steps you can take to help prevent your risk for heart-related complications. Of course lifestyle changes to your diet, and activity level are keys to reducing your risk for heart disease, you can also reduce your risk if you:
– monitor and control your sugar and carbohydrate intake
– eat fiber! This helps regulate insulin and blood glucose levels
– check your blood glucose regularly
– visit your doctor regularly
– get plenty of exercise
– talk to your doctor about supplementing with l-arginine to improve poor circulation and support your blood pressure