Diabetes and Heart Disease
If you have diabetes, you are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease than someone without diabetes. And you are likely to get it at a younger age. This higher risk is because of diabetes. But it’s also because of other risk factors for heart disease that happen in people with diabetes. But there’s good news. You can help control your health risks by making some changes in your life. You can take steps to cut your risk for heart disease by half. This is similar to the risk in people who don’t have diabetes.
Your main risk factors
Three major risk factors for heart disease are high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and high levels of fat in the blood (lipids). By controlling these things, you can help keep your heart and arteries healthy. This may cut your chances of a heart attack.
- Blood sugar. High blood sugar can make artery walls tough and rough. Plaque is waxy material in the blood. It can then build up along the artery walls. This makes it harder for blood to flow through the arteries. High blood sugar also raises the chances of having high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Blood pressure. When blood pressure is high all the time, it causes your heart to work harder to pump blood. Artery walls become damaged. This makes it more likely for plaque to build up.
Lipids. Your body needs some blood fats (lipids) to stay healthy. But lipid levels that are too high can harm artery walls. Lipids include cholesterol and triglycerides. There are two kinds of cholesterol. LDL (“bad”) cholesterol can damage the arteries. But HDL (“good”) cholesterol helps clear LDL from the blood vessels. This helps keep the arteries healthy. When blood sugar is high, the level of triglycerides in the blood may also be high. This can also cause plaque to form.
Other risk factors
Certain lifestyle factors can raise levels of your blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipids. Higher levels raise your risk for heart disease:
- Smoking. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries. This allows plaque to build up in the artery walls. It also narrows the arteries. This can raise blood pressure and cause chest pain (angina). Smoking also raises your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. Also don’t use e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
- Not being active. Not being active makes it harder for your heart to do its work. Inactivity is linked to many other problems, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Inactivity also increases your risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
- Being overweight. Being overweight makes it harder for your body to use insulin. It also makes your heart work too hard. Being overweight is also the main thing leading to type 2 diabetes.
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