• Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

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    Learn more about diabetes from Dr. David L. Brown.

    Diabetes and cardiovascular disease often go hand-in-hand. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than people without diabetes. In fact, about 68 percent of people with diabetes die of heart disease or stroke — one more factor that makes cardiovascular disease the most common cause of death in both men and women.

    In addition, people with diabetes often have a build-up of atherosclerotic plaque throughout the body. About one in three people with diabetes over the age of 50 has peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which is the narrowing of blood vessels by plaque in parts of the body other than the heart, for example in the legs or the kidneys.

  • More About Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

    Cardiovascular Complications of Diabetes

    The relationship between diabetes and cardiovascular disease is clear, but the causes are complex. Over time, too much glucose in the blood damages nerves and blood vessels. This, in turn, can cause heart disease and stroke. In addition, damage to the blood vessels in the legs can result in poor circulation and increase the risk of foot ulcers and amputations, while damage to the blood vessels that supply blood to the kidneys can cause kidney failure and damage to the small blood vessels in the eye can eventually cause blindness.

    Diabetes & Your Heart: Info for Cardiovascular Health

    Learn more about the relationship between diabetes and heart disease, including how you can improve your heart health, identify important symptoms, and evaluate treatment options.

    Diabetes and Diagnosing Cardiovascular Disease

    If you have diabetes, your primary care physician may already have talked with you about the importance of taking care of your heart and blood vessels. If not, you should bring up the topic and ask your doctor to evaluate how high your risk for cardiovascular disease is and what you should do to prevent a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease (PAD).

    Diabetes and Symptoms of Heart Attack, Stroke, and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

    Diabetes increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, as well as the risk of blockages in arteries leading to the legs or kidneys. Additionally, diabetes can change the symptoms of a heart attack, making the heart attack harder to diagnose.

    Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

    Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, making heart attack or stroke common causes of death among people with diabetes. Managing your diabetes is critical to heart health. The following questions can help you talk to your physician about how you can manage diabetes and work to safeguard your heart health at the same time.

    Treatment and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease If You Have Diabetes

    Many people with diabetes develop at least mild cardiovascular disease. Therefore, treatment consists of a strong program for preventing further damage to the heart and blood vessels, coupled with specific therapies for problems that already exist. Whether plaque build-up affects the arteries of the heart, legs, brain or other organs, effective prevention and treatment are likely to involve lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, stress management and quitting smoking; medications to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels; and possibly daily aspirin to ward off unwanted blood clots.

    What is Diabetes?

    Diabetes prevents the body from properly metabolizing sugar from food and using it as fuel in the body's cells. When you digest food, most of it is broken down into glucose, a type of sugar. The glucose is then transported in the blood to individual cells to burn for energy. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, is needed to get the glucose into the cells — like a key that opens a door. In healthy people, the body automatically senses how much glucose is in the bloodstream and releases the right amount of insulin. In diabetes, the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or the cells are resistant to the insulin, or both. As a result, the amount of glucose in the blood climbs too high while the cells starve for energy.