Blood Relatives: Diabetes and Heart Disease

You may not think of diabetes as being a heart health issue.

But diabetes is a key risk factor for heart disease. And the American Heart Association reports that people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease.

“There is a very strong relationship between diabetes and heart disease,” says Saadeddine Dughman, MD, cardiologist at Advanced Cardiovascular Institute, a Premier Health Specialists practice. “They are so interrelated that the National Cholesterol Education Program puts diabetes on their list equivalent to heart disease. Meaning, if someone has diabetes then we automatically look at them as if they already have heart disease.”

People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease.

He adds that people who have diabetes also are more likely to have other common heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. High blood sugar can damage blood vessels and arteries, over time, contributing to these problems.

About 65 percent of people with diabetes die from some form of heart disease or stroke. And for people with type 2 diabetes, in which the body gradually loses the ability to use and produce insulin, heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death and disability.

The Good News: Diabetes is ControllableBlood Relatives - Diabetes and Heart Health - In Content

Diabetes is one of seven controllable heart disease risk factors. The others are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, poor diet and tobacco use, according to the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Here’s how to lower your risk of diabetes — and heart disease:

  • Eat right. A dietitian or diabetes educator can help develop a meal plan just right for you. You’ll need to cut back on total calories, limit the amount of processed or refined carbohydrates you eat, eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. eat fiber, including vegetables and whole grains, and reduce salt.
  • Be active. Physical activity lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes. It also helps you control your weight, strengthen your heart, and lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • Control your weight. The combination of eating right and staying active will help achieve this. Being overweight is the key contributor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking damages the lining of arteries, enabling fatty deposits, or plaque, to build up on the artery walls. Smoking also increases your risk of getting type 2 diabetes and narrows the arteries, which raises blood pressure.
  • Visit your doctor. Through regular checkups and lab tests your doctor can help you maintain better health by controlling the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. And if you’re already being treated for blood sugar, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, take your medication as prescribed.
Small Steps: Budget Your Carbs.
You can still have foods you love, but sometimes it means cutting carbs elsewhere.