Understanding the Correlation Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

February 08,2021 |
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Understanding the Correlation Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

Having diabetes requires ongoing management to keep your blood glucose levels in a normal range and avoid complications. While many people understand some of the negative consequences of poorly managed diabetes, its link to heart disease often goes unaddressed. Unfortunately, living with diabetes increases your risk of developing heart disease, which means that you’re at a higher risk of a heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In honor of American Heart Month, we want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to improve your heart health through proper diabetes management and lifestyle choices. Understanding the correlation between diabetes and heart disease doesn’t have to cause anxiety, but it is necessary to remain vigilant and keep your heart healthy.

Understanding Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. As a response to this realization in 1964, February was designated as American Heart Month. The focus of American Heart Month is to spread awareness and work towards the eradication of heart disease and stroke.

Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is a term that encompasses different problems directly affecting your heart. The most common is coronary artery disease, which occurs due to a buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries—the arteries responsible for oxygenating your heart. After time, this buildup causes your blood flow to decrease, which can result in a heart attack or stroke. Plaque buildup and hardening of arteries isn’t localized and can occur throughout your body such as in the case of peripheral arterial disease.

The Correlation Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

While heart disease is common amongst older men and women, your risk for developing it doubles if you’re living with diabetes. Unfortunately, the younger that you develop diabetes, the more likely you are to have heart disease at some point throughout your life. These risks increase with poor diabetes management and unhealthy lifestyle decisions. The underlying correlation between diabetes and heart disease has to do with blood sugar levels. High blood sugar from diabetes can cause damage to essential blood vessels in your body along with the nerves that send signals to your heart to pump or open and close valves. Over time, this stress causes problems that can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Some people experience no symptoms of heart disease while others may feel a pressure, tightness, or pain in the chest along with shortness of breath, fatigue, or a feeling of dizziness and weakness. If you think that you or a loved one are having a heart attack or stroke call 9-1-1 immediately.

Factors That Further Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

Another correlation is that people living with diabetes tend to have other conditions that also increase the risk of heart disease. This is more common in people with type 2 diabetes but can occur in those living with type 1 diabetes as well. The following are a list of factors and other conditions that increase the likelihood of heart disease and a cardiovascular event:

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Hypertension is one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease and there’s a proven association between high blood pressure and insulin resistance. If you’re living with diabetes and have hypertension, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you can do to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.

Abnormal Cholesterol

Bad cholesterol creates the building blocks for plaque accumulation. High levels of LDL cholesterol in conjunction with low levels of HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides are characteristic of the future development of heart disease. Since diabetes tends to naturally lower the good cholesterol (HDL) and increase triglycerides and bad cholesterol (LDL), it’s important to take proactive steps to regulating your cholesterol levels.


Smoking is detrimental to your body whether you have diabetes or not. It narrows your blood vessels, which puts excess strain on your heart. Smoking is also associated with a range of other conditions and diseases that can lead to nerve damage, permanent blood vessel problems, and increased infections. If you need help with smoking cessation, talk to your doctor about your options today.


Obesity is one of the primary risk factors for heart disease. If you’re living with diabetes and are obese, this risk increases even more. Obesity takes a big toll on your body and can decrease insulin sensitivity. If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about a healthy weight loss program to better manage your diabetes and decrease your risk of heart disease.

Sedentary Lifestyles

It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking. Physical inactivity can cause insulin resistance and is a major contributor to heart disease. It increases blood pressure and contributes to weight gain. If you work a sedentary job, get up and walk around once every hour for a few minutes, incorporate some stretching, and make sure that you’re getting adequate exercise outside of the office. Aim for about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week along with a few strength-training exercises.

Family History

Genetics are another thing that can increase your chances of developing heart disease. If you have a family history of heart disease or have a family member who has had a heart attack, your risk increases dramatically. While you can’t control your genetics, you can take other measures into consideration to reduce your chances of heart disease.

How to Reduce Your Chances of Heart Disease

If you have diabetes, it can feel overwhelming to think about the possibility of developing other conditions. However, heart disease is serious and kills over 600,000 people in the United States every year. Diabetes increases your risk for developing heart disease, so it’s important to do everything in your power to reduce that risk.

Manage Your Diabetes with ABCs

The ABCs of diabetes can help you manage your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. A is for the A1C test, B is for blood pressure, C is for cholesterol, and s is for stop smoking.

The A1C test will help you get a better understanding of your average blood glucose levels over a long period of time. This is important as it allows you to see things from a big picture. Regularly check your blood glucose levels and blood pressure to improve your understanding of how it fluctuates throughout the day, after eating certain foods, or after exercise. The goal is to have a blood pressure reading under 140/90 mm Hg, but it varies from person to person so confirm your numbers with your doctor. Get your cholesterol levels measured so you can better understand what you need to do to correct the ratio of bad to good. Finally, if you smoke, quit. We understand that it’s difficult, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to avoid living with both diabetes, heart disease, and a myriad of other conditions.

Address Diabetes Distress

Diabetes distress is serious and can lead to dangerous behaviors. The stress alone can be harmful to your blood sugar levels and blood pressure. If you’re feeling helpless or anxious about diabetes, reach out to a professional. Managing diabetes is difficult, but you’re not alone. There are plenty of great resources to help you get the support you need to live a long, healthy life.

Make Lifestyle Changes

If you haven’t already, make some long-term healthy lifestyle changes. Try to put together a healthy diabetes meal plan and schedule time to exercise in your routine. Start small and work your way up to ensure that these lifestyle changes aren’t a fleeting thing. Even just adding a daily walk to your schedule can do wonders for your overall demeanor and health. Prioritize your sleep schedule to make sure that you start each day with a fresh mindset. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try meditation or yoga.

It’s also important to follow a heart-healthy diet that’s high in leafy greens, omega-3s, whole grains, and healthy fats. Avoid too much sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats (trans and saturated).

Be Proactive with Medication

In addition to being diligent about your insulin, talk to your doctor about taking medication to help protect your heart. There are medications available that can help you stabilize A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels along with reduce your risk of clotting, heart attacks, or stroke. Never take medications without your doctor’s approval and avoid supplements that you have not discussed with a medical professional beforehand.

Testing for Heart Disease

If you think that you might have the warning signs of heart disease, see your doctor as soon as possible. Taking a proactive approach can be the difference between having a heart attack or stroke and living a long, healthy life. There are a few different ways your doctor can test for heart disease including an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), an echocardiogram (echo), and a stress test (treadmill test). If your heart health is struggling, your doctor will make some recommendations to help you prioritize your health while maintaining the proper regimen to manage your diabetes.

For better diabetes management, always opt for high-quality, medical grade equipment. Byram Healthcare is a nationwide supplier of diabetes management supplies. Our organization supports the efforts made by the American Heart Association to help raise awareness and work towards eradicating heart disease and stroke. To learn more, contact one of our representatives today.