Diabetes can be hard on the body in general. Those with the disease are more prone to problems with their eyes, slow wound healing, neuropathy, and a host of other health concerns. However, one of the most troubling complications for diabetic patients is their increased risk for developing heart disease, our nation’s number one killer.
How Diabetes Increases the Risk of Heart Disease
A diabetic patient’s heightened risk for heart complications is somewhat attributable to increased blood glucose levels which can gradually damage blood vessels throughout the body and heart, as well as the nerves that control them. However, diabetics are also more likely than the general population to suffer from other conditions known to impact the heart, and it is this common concurrence with other major health concerns that makes diabetes particularly dangerous. Among those commonly seen are:
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
On their own, each of these conditions are known contributors to heart disease. However, they are especially hazardous when combined with other heart-threatening conditions. This is precisely why patients with diabetes must be particularly vigilant in protecting and monitoring their heart health.
Steps to Reduce Heart Disease Risk from Diabetes
Reducing the impact of diabetes on the heart can be accomplished for most by making important lifestyle changes and monitoring key areas of health. To make the greatest difference, patients should focus on the following:
- A1C Levels – A1C tests provide a look at average blood glucose levels over a three month period. Ideally, this result should be less than 7 percent, as higher percentages increase the likelihood of damage to the heart and blood vessels. Patients can help keep their A1C results in a healthy range by remaining physically active, eating a healthy diet, and closely monitoring their daily blood glucose levels.
- Blood Pressure – Blood pressure levels indicate the force against artery walls as blood passes through. When blood pressure is too high, it can narrow and damage these walls, leading to major heart complications. It is estimated that 25 percent of Type 1 diabetes patients and 80 percent of Type 2 diabetes patients also have high blood pressure. In order to keep these levels in check, it is important to maintain a healthy weight and active lifestyle. Patients should also focus on a nutritious diet with a careful watch over their intake of sodium, caffeine and alcohol. In some cases, prescription medication may also be needed.
- Cholesterol – Diabetes tends to lower good cholesterol levels and increase bad cholesterol. This can contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, compounding any damage that diabetes may cause on its own. Again, diet and exercise are key to helping keep these levels in a healthy range, and medication may be necessary as well.
- Stop Smoking – For diabetic patients who are smokers, breaking the habit is one of the most effective steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of danger for the heart, as well as to improve overall health. Not only will quitting smoking lower the risk of heart disease, it will also lessen potential complications for the eyes, nerves, and kidneys while also making it much easier to remain physically active.
If you are diabetic, you already know there are many other conditions to which you are susceptible. What you may not have previously realized is just how pervasive these complications can be, even increasing the risk to your heart. Whether you are suffering from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, taking appropriate steps to maintain a strong and healthy heart is equally important.
Begin your journey by scheduling an appointment with a CIS cardiologist at any of our many locations. Our team of health experts can help you assess the current state of your heart health, develop a plan of action to keep it protected, and even help you with efforts to quit smoking. To find the location nearest you and request your consultation, click the button below.