Diabetes and Heart Disease

What are the warning signs of a heart attack?

You may have one or more of the following warning signs:

  • chest pain or discomfort
  • pain or discomfort in your arms, back, jaw, or neck (common sign for women)
  • indigestion or stomach pain
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • light-headedness

It is also possible to have no warning signs at all.

Are there other risk factors of heart disease for people with diabetes?

Unfortunately, diabetes itself is a risk factor for heart disease. There are also many other conditions that increase a person’s chance of developing heart disease.

A family history of heart disease. If one or more members of your family had a heart attack at an early age (before age 55 for men or 65 for women), or had heart disease, you may be at increased risk.

Having an apple shaped middle. Carrying extra weight around the waist instead of the hips is a risk factor. A waist measurement of more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women means you have a condition called “central obesity”. The risk of heart disease is higher for these people because abdominal fat has shown to increase the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol, the type of blood fat that can be deposited on the inside of blood vessel walls.

Abnormal cholesterol levels.

  • LDL cholesterol (bad) can build up inside blood vessels, leading to narrowing and hardening, or even a blockage, of the arteries — the blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. High levels of LDL cholesterol raise your risk of getting heart disease.
  • High Triglycerides are another type of blood fat that can raise your risk of heart disease.
  • HDL cholesterol (good) removes deposits from inside your blood vessels and takes them to the liver for removal. Low levels of HDL cholesterol increase your risk for heart disease.

High blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, causes your heart to work harder (think of what happens when you block off part of the stream of water from a hose). People with diabetes are at greater risk for having high blood pressure, too. This can strain the heart, damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, eye and kidney problems.

Smoking. Smoking doubles your risk of getting heart disease. Stopping smoking is especially important for people with diabetes because both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels. Smoking also increases the risk of other long-term complications, such as eye problems. In addition, smoking can damage the blood vessels in your legs and increase the risk of amputation.

What you can do to prevent heart disease


American Heart Association

Mayo Clinic

National Diabetes Education Program

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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