There’s no denying there’s a strong link between diabetes and heart disease. People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease as people without diabetes. In fact, most people with diabetes will develop heart disease at some time. Heart disease can cause stroke, heart attack and heart failure.
When someone has uncontrolled diabetes, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. Even if blood sugar is controlled, people with diabetes often have other health conditions that also increase the risk of heart disease. Here are some factors that can contribute to heart disease risk:
Unhealthy cholesterol levels
People with diabetes often have high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and high triglyceride levels. These can form plaque on artery walls. This makes it hard for blood to flow through. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack or a stroke.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure makes blood flow more forcefully through blood vessels. This can damage arteries. Having both high blood pressure and diabetes greatly increases your risk of heart disease.
Carrying extra weight can be a major risk factor for heart disease. This is especially true when someone stores more fat around the middle, or visceral fat. A person is considered higher risk when their waist circumference measures 35 inches or more for women and 40 inches or more for men. Visceral fat surrounds organs and increases the risk of a number of conditions, including obesity and heart disease. Losing weight can improve insulin resistance and lower the risk of heart disease.
Several lifestyle factors can increase your risk of heart disease. These include:
- Low physical activity
- A diet high in saturated fat and sodium
- Drinking too much alcohol
If you have diabetes, take care to manage your blood sugar through lifestyle and medication, as needed. Making lifestyle changes can have the twin effect of managing your diabetes and lowering your risk of heart disease.