The risk of heart disease and stroke are nearly twice as high in people with diabetes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in people who have type 2 diabetes. Discover the link between heart disease, stroke, and diabetes as well as ways to avoid cardiovascular problems.
Serious Risk of Heart Disease for People with Diabetes
Heart disease is most common in people with type 2 diabetes. The Framingham Study initiated years ago was part of the research that proved people with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than those who do not have diabetes. Other problems associated with heart issues are high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, a family history of heart disease, and smoking. There are also factors which can’t be changed such as age, race, gender and genetics but do create a risk. Luckily, lifestyle choices, medical care and treatment may reduce some of the risks associated with heart disease and diabetes. Basic changes may improve your overall well-being and even extend your lifespan.
The Reasons for Heart Disease in People with Diabetes
“Hardening of the coronary arteries” is the leading cause of heart disease in people with diabetes. This happens when cholesterol plaque builds in the blood vessels that deliver nutrition and oxygen to the heart. If the flow of blood is blocked by a clot or a spasm, oxygen cannot be delivered and a heart attack could occur. If other arteries are affected such as in the brain and legs, it can lead to a stroke or peripheral vascular disease. Be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack; when they present, contact 911 and chew up a regular aspirin. Symptoms include faintness, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pressure or pain, nausea, excessive perspiration, and pain in the left arm, back or shoulders. Contact a doctor if you experience symptoms associated with peripheral vascular disease, such as cold feet, a bluish tinge in skin color, decreased pulses in the legs or feet, cramping or pain in the legs, hips and buttocks and loss of fat and hair on the lower legs. People with diabetic neuropathy or numbness may have difficulty noticing these symptoms. Always remove your shoes and socks during routine medical exams to have your feet and legs checked.
Treatment of Heart Disease When You Have Diabetes
A cardiologist will determine the severity of your heart disease and treat it accordingly. Treatment might include dietary changes, such as a low-fat, low-salt, and low-sugar diet. You should be referred to a registered dietitian for further evaluation and information. Low dose chewable or enteric coated aspirin therapy may be recommended to help reduce the risk of clots that could lead to heart attack or stroke. Exercising for at least 30 minutes daily is typically recommended. This helps patients maintain weight loss after starting a better eating program with smaller portions. It also improves high blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and LDL cholesterol levels. In the most serious cases, the doctor might recommend medication and/or surgery to assist in weight loss. Follow the advice of your health care team. Test your blood sugar and blood pressure at home and report abnormalities to your doctor.
Treating Peripheral Vascular Disease and Diabetes
Treatment options for peripheral vascular disease can also be helpful to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as symptoms associated with diabetes. Doctors often recommend reaching an A1C goal of 7% or under. When heart disease is established then A1C numbers may be raised by your doctor to prevent hypoglycemia; episodes of hypoglycemia can increase the risk of heart attacks in certain cardiac patients. People are encouraged to be active daily. Walking can be done in intervals of 10-15 minutes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a total of 30-45 minutes daily. Lowering your blood pressure to under 140/80 is recommended. The DASH diet and exercise can reduce your blood pressure as well as trying to alleviate stress. Deep breathing, meditation, praying, yoga, and Tai Chi may help minimize the stress in your life. People with diabetes and heart issues should try to get their LDL cholesterol under 70. Avoid fried foods, such as French fries or fried chicken, packaged, bagged, boxed and processed foods. Broil, boil, steam, sauté, grill, or bake foods rather than frying them. Eat foods that are raw. Choose fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and fish and low-fat dairy products. Special footwear may be recommended for people with peripheral vascular disease since their blood flow and sensation are reduced. You can consult a podiatrist for the safest shoe choice. Socks should be used to protect the feet from the shoes. Take proper care of your feet to avoid complications related to heart disease and diabetes. This includes washing them daily with lukewarm water, drying them gently and applying fragrance-free foot cream. Avoid cream in the area of the toes to prevent fungus. Cut toenails straight across or have a podiatrist do it for you. Use a mirror to check the bottoms of your feet daily for cuts, callouses, and sores. In advanced cases of peripheral vascular disease, medication and surgery would be recommended.
Prevention is better than Treatment and Cures
Preventing heart problems is the best way to avoid the complications associated with heart disease and diabetes. Quit if you smoke. Smokers have 2-4 times the risk than nonsmokers of developing heart disease. Consider going cold turkey, smoking cessation therapy, acupuncture, Chantix, support groups from the Lung Association or hypnosis to kick the habit. Cut down or eliminate alcohol which is empty calories. If you are overweight, losing just 5-10 percent of your total body weight can make a notable difference. Eat a well-balanced diet and exercise daily. Talk to a medical professional about the potential benefits of a heart-healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet. Include fiber, such as raw vegetables and whole grains, in your daily diet. Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet by eating fish such as salmon or tuna two or three times weekly. Ask your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement. Keep your blood sugar under control to help prevent heart problems. Check your blood sugar regularly and take diabetes medications as recommended by your health care team.
People with diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, but that does not mean it is a predetermined condition. Lifestyle changes, a healthy diet, daily exercise, and regular medical examinations can help you manage diabetes and avoid heart problems. A few simple change can go a long way to living a longer, healthier life.