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Diabetes and your heart:
what you should know

When it comes to the number of lives taken by heart disease due to diabetes, even one is too many.

  • Heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of death from type 2 diabetes
  • Compared to those without diabetes, people with diabetes are:
    • Over three times more likely to be hospitalized for heart health problems
    • More likely to have heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier
  • 1 in 2 people with type 2 diabetes die due to heart disease

How does heart disease happen?

Heart disease happens when the heart, or the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart, have been damaged. In addition to diabetes, additional risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Being overweight or not exercising
  • Smoking

Note that having diabetes alone is considered a risk factor for heart disease. The more of these factors you have, the higher your risk is of developing heart disease.

Heart disease or conditions affecting your blood vessels can include or contribute to:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • stroke

Most people think of heart disease as one condition.

In truth, heart disease is more of a general term, and has many causes. Heart disease is a group of conditions that can affect the structure and functions of the heart, and its blood vessels.

The most common form of heart disease in diabetes is coronary artery disease or “hardening of the arteries”. This happens when fatty deposits block the arteries that supply the heart with blood. If you smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, do not exercise or eat a balanced diet, your heart is at risk of disease.

Think of your heart like a car engine: there are several parts that make up the engine. If one part is damaged or is not working the way it should, it can affect the performance of the enwhole gine. It’s the same with your heart.

While a heart attack may seem like an isolated event, it can be a sign of a much more serious and long-term heart health problem and can lead to heart failure.

Importantly, people with diabetes can develop heart failure without having had a heart attack, coronary artery disease, or high blood pressure.

Heart failure happens when the heart muscle is not pumping blood as well as it should, resulting in the body not getting the amount of blood, oxygen, and nutrients it needs. Symptoms of heart failure can include:

  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Sudden weight gain of more than 1.5 kg (3 lbs) over 1 to 2 days, or 2.5 kg (5 lbs) in a single week
  • Bloating or feeling full all the time
  • Cough or cold symptoms that last longer than a week
  • Tiredness, loss of energy or extreme tiredness
  • Loss of or change in appetite
  • Increased swelling in the ankles, feet, legs base of spine or stomach
  • Increased urination at night

Having diabetes makes you 2 to 5 times more likely to develop heart failure. If you have type 2 diabetes and a history of heart disease, controlling your blood sugar alone may not be enough. But, there are medications that – along with diet and exercise – have been proven to lower the risk of dying from problems related to your heart and blood vessels.

People with diabetes have worse outcomes than people without diabetes when it comes to heart failure.

Unfortunately, one-fifth of Canadians mistakenly believe that heart failure is a normal part of aging, however there are things you can do to protect your heart health.

Even when your blood glucose levels are being managed, also think about your heart and blood vessel health.

Remember: people with diabetes can develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than those without diabetes, and up to 1 in 2 of people with type 2 diabetes will die from heart disease.

It’s important to talk to your doctor about your heart health, possible medication options, and the simple steps you can take to lower your risk of heart disease.

What should people with type 2 diabetes do to reduce their risk of heart disease?

Diabetes Canada recommends that people with diabetes reduce their risk of heart disease by:

  • Aiming for good blood pressure control
  • Controlling cholesterol levels
  • Manage blood glucose

It’s also important to remember the ABCDES to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke:

the A-B-C-D-E-s of risk reduction

Control blood glucose levels and keep A1C around 7 per cent or less. A1C is a blood test that is an index of the average blood glucose level over the last 120 days
Blood pressure:
Control your blood pressure less than 130/80 mmHg
Manage your cholesterol
Drugs to protect your heart- Speak with your doctor about medication options to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
Regular physical activity, which includes healthy diet, achievement and maintenance of a healthy body weight
screening for complications
Ensure you’re tested regularly for possible complications with your heart, feet, and kidneys
smoking cessation
Look into ways to reduce or stop smoking
Manage stress effectively

Speak to your doctor about how you can protect your heart health. Together, you can come up with an achievable step-by-step plan to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Or click here for more information about diabetes and heart health.

doctor reviewing medical information

Increased Risk Factors

Managing your risks can be the best path to better health

find out how

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