More than 37 million Americans — about 1 in 10 — have diabetes, a chronic medical condition that interferes with the way your body processes glucose, or blood sugar. Glucose is your body’s primary source of energy, so it’s no surprise that it plays a role in many aspects of your health, including your heart health.
That’s why if you have diabetes, you have a much greater risk of developing heart disease compared to someone who doesn't have diabetes. In fact, one recent study found that about a third of people who have diabetes also have cardiovascular disease.
As a leading cardiology practice serving patients in Glendale, Goodyear, Anthem, Canyon City, Scottsdale and Avondale, Arizona, Phoenix Heart, PLLC, helps patients with diabetes understand how that disease could be affecting their heart health, too. If you have both diabetes and heart ailments, here’s what our team wants you to know about the link between these two very common medical problems.
Quick facts about diabetes
There are two primary types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. (A third type, gestational diabetes, can happen during pregnancy, but usually clears up soon after delivery.) Both type 1 and type 2 affect the way your body produces or uses insulin, a hormone that keeps your levels of glucose in check.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that happens when your immune system malfunctions and begins attacking the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. That allows your blood sugar levels to rise dramatically. This type of diabetes most often develops when you’re younger — during childhood, the teen years, or young adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes happens when your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or when it doesn’t use insulin correctly or effectively — again, causing glucose levels to rise.
Just as too much sugar isn’t good for your overall health, too much blood sugar is bad for your organs and other tissues. When diabetes isn’t well managed, it can affect your kidneys, your eyes, your nerves, and, yes, your heart.
Diabetes and heart health
Diabetes is associated with many types of cardiovascular problems, including:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD)
- Congestive heart failure
- Myocardial infarction
- Peripheral vascular disease
In fact, it’s the first item on that list — atherosclerosis — that can lead to many of the other heart-related problems in people with diabetes.
Higher levels of blood sugar damage the insides of your blood vessels, causing damaging inflammation. That damage makes it easier for sticky cholesterol deposits to accumulate. Over time, these deposits stiffen the arteries and make them narrower, impeding blood flow and circulation.
This condition is atherosclerosis, and it’s a leading cause of CAD, chest pain, and heart attacks. Plus, atherosclerosis increases your risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two factors that can also increase your risks for heart disease and heart attacks.
Managing heart health when you have diabetes
If you have both diabetes and heart disease, one of the most important things you can do to protect your heart is to make sure to follow your diabetes management plan and see your diabetes healthcare provider frequently to ensure your plan stays on track. Everyone’s health needs change as they age, and that means your management plan probably needs to evolve, too.
You should also make sure to have regular heart health evaluations — as often as our team recommends. Our providers are skilled in managing patients who have both of these health issues, and we can customize your care to ensure the effects of both conditions are monitored and managed effectively.
Most people who have diabetes, heart disease, or both benefit from lifestyle changes, too, like a healthy diet, regular physical activity, medical weight loss, and stress management. Your care plan will likely include lifestyle changes in addition to medication, health screenings, and other therapies tailored to your needs and risk factors.
Custom care for your unique health needs
Of course, managing heart health is always essential. But if you have diabetes, you need to pay even greater attention to your health needs and your symptoms, too.
To learn how we can help, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Phoenix Heart today.