Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

The top causes of death and disability for people with type 2 diabetes are similar to those for people without diabetes: Heart disease and stroke. Numerous studies exist linking cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes. People who suffer from diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. Diabetes is a major risk factor for a cardiovascular condition called atherosclerosis which can result in kidney disease and high blood pressure, platelet (a component of blood) abnormalities and abnormal vascular reactivity, which means blood vessels stop responding normally to signals from the body.

More than 65% of people with diabetes die from stroke or a cause related to heart disease.

The good news is that the American Heart Association classifies diabetes as one of seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This means with good control of your diabetes through diet, exercise, medical management and frequent visits to your doctor, you may be able to reduce your risks.

Other factors that contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease include high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and elevated triglycerides, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and poorly controlled blood sugars.

High or uncontrolled sugar levels in the blood result in damage to body, especially the blood vessels, eyes and kidneys. Blood tests that look at glucose (sugar) and glycosylated hemoglobin (HgbA1C) help you and your healthcare provider to know how well your sugar levels are being controlled. If your glucose levels are elevated you can help to normalize them through dietary choices, exercise and by taking medications.

All of the reasons are not fully understood why diabetes leads to a higher risk of CVD. People who suffer from diabetes may have associated conditions such as high cholesterol, triglycerides or a sedentary lifestyle which are already well known risk factors. Experts have suggested diabetes may have a direct effect of CVD thorough increasing the risk of thrombus formation in the heart, making platelets more reactive (increased clotting) and by making endothelial dysfunction worse. Worsening endothelial dysfunction means that the blood vessels don’t constrict and dilate normally, and this can lead to the plaque formation and thickening associated with atherosclerosis.

For more information:

Aspirin for Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in People with Diabetes. ADA/AHA/ACCF Scientific Statement. 2010.

Diabetes and the cardiologists: a call to action. 2000. J Am Coll Cardiol.

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