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Understanding the relationship between diabetes and heart disease

January 24, 2022 Posted in: Blogs , English


If you have diabetes, you know it’s essential to monitor and maintain healthy blood sugar levels to stay well and prevent conditions like kidney damage or eye disease. But did you know that unmanaged diabetes can also lead to heart disease, stroke, and more? In fact, people with diabetes are twice as likely to experience these conditions than someone without diabetes. Don’t stress out, though—there are some simple steps you can take to protect your heart. Let’s dive in.

How is diabetes linked to cardiovascular disease?

High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, the arteries and veins that carry blood throughout the body. When vessels are exposed to high blood sugar levels for an extended time, they can begin to form fatty deposits on their walls, also known as plaques. These plaques make the vessels more narrow, which means the heart has to work harder to push blood throughout the body. This condition is known as atherosclerosis, and it can cause high blood pressure and even heart failure.

Atherosclerosis can also increase a person’s risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke in two ways:

  • Blood clots: If a blood clot travels through a narrow blood vessel, it is more likely to get stuck and block blood flow to the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke.
  • Plaques breaking off: Hard bits of the plaque may break off and block an artery, preventing blood flow to vital organs.

How to protect your heart health if you have diabetes

The good news is that adopting simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Additionally, the steps you take to reduce your risk of heart disease can also help you manage your diabetes.

  • Get regular checkups. Your doctor will measure vitals, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar, to gain an understanding of how you’re doing and make recommendations for achieving better health. 
  • Monitor and manage your blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor about how often to check your blood sugar.
  • Lower your cholesterol. LDL cholesterol, also known as “bad” cholesterol, is one of the building blocks of the plaques inside the blood vessels. You can lower your LDL levels by limiting how much fried and processed food you eat, getting active, quitting smoking, and reducing stress.

At St. Joseph Health, our specialists work together to help you take control of your overall health. First, our St. Joseph and Texas A&M Health Network primary care physicians can help with the day-to-day management of diabetes. They may then recommend that you visit an endocrinologist to receive more advanced care for your condition or a cardiologist if you have symptoms of heart disease. Schedule a visit today to start on your journey toward better health.

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