Diabetes and Heart Disease

RFS - heart beatPeople with diabetes face many challenges staying healthy and heart health is no exception. Having diabetes puts you at much greater risk for heart disease and heart attacks. 2 out of 3 people with diabetes will actually die from stroke or heart disease.

Diabetics tend to develop heart disease or have heart attacks at an earlier age than the average population. Some studies suggest that if you are middle-aged and have Type 2 diabetes, the chance of having a heart attack is as high as someone without diabetes who has already had one heart attack. Further, women of all ages with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease because diabetes cancels out the protective effects of child-bearing hormones.

Those with diabetes who have already had one heart attack are at an even greater risk of having a second one. Finally, heart attacks in people with diabetes are more serious and more likely to result in death.

What types of heart or vascular disease do people with diabetes have?

Your heart is a big muscle responsible for pumping blood through your body through a system of arteries and veins. Your blood supplies oxygen and other materials your body needs to function normally.

High blood glucose levels or high cholesterol, over time, can lead to increased deposits of fatty materials on the insides of the blood vessel walls. These deposits may affect blood flow, increasing the chance of clogging and hardening of blood vessels.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is caused by a hardening or thickening of the walls of the blood vessels that go to your heart. If the blood vessels to your heart become narrowed or blocked by fatty deposits, the blood supply is reduced or cut off, resulting in a heart attack.

Cerebral vascular disease is a condition which affects the blood vessels in the neck and head, which puts them at much greater risk for a stroke.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a condition that occurs when the blood vessels in the legs narrow or are blocked. An estimated 1 out of every 3 people with diabetes over the age of 50 have this condition. Others may have the following symptoms:

  • Leg pain, particularly when walking or exercising, which disappears after a few minutes of rest
  • Numbness, tingling, or coldness in the lower legs or feet
  • Sores or infections on your feet or legs that heal slowly

People with diabetes are also at risk for heart attack or failure. A heart attack happens when a blood vessel in or near the heart becomes blocked. Not enough blood can get to that part of the heart muscle. That area of the heart muscle stops working and permanent damage, or even death, can occur.

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