Diabetes and heart disease, these are two words that often go hand-in-hand. As it turns out, the risk of heart disease death and stroke are more than twice as high in people with diabetes. Additionally, about 40% of deaths in patients with Type 2 Diabetes are attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD). In a world where 537 million adults are now living with diabetes worldwide, the correlation between the two ailments cannot be ignored. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Abhay Somani, Senior Consultant -Cardiology, Boehringer Ingelheim, about the relationship between diabetes and heart disease and ways to prevent it.
Closer to home, India currently accounts for 49 per cent of the world’s diabetes share. Driven by various factors such as sedentary lifestyles, increased stress levels, unhealthy diets and tobacco use among others, this figure is expected to be around 134 million, almost double by 2025. Add to this the risk of cardiovascular disease and we have a ticking time-bomb on our hands. Read further to know more about diabetes and heart health.
Why do diabetics have a higher risk of developing heart disease?
Diabetics often battle high blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart. Additionally, diabetics are prone to hypertension which increases the force of blood through arteries and can damage artery walls; high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) run the risk of forming plaque on damaged artery walls while high triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood) contribute to hardening of the arteries.
Most people are unaware of the fact that diabetics can have what is known as a ‘silent’ heart attack. A patient may feel nothing at all or some heartburn, an odd ache or pain in the chest, light-headedness, an upset stomach or pain in the left arm or back. It might seem so minor that patients sometimes shrug it off and think it’s just part of getting older. These are symptoms diabetics mustn’t ignore as the ‘silence’ could have serious repercussions.
How to prevent heart disease in diabetics
There is a ray of light in every aspect. Diabetics can also follow certain preventive ways to keep heart diseases away. According to Dr. Abhay, they are:
Medical science has progressed by leaps and bounds and today, new medicines are available for diabetics which are excellent for maintaining cardiovascular health. Additionally, medicines that help keep blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides close to target levels are safe for diabetics and help in the active prevention of heart disease.
2. Manage blood sugar levels
Individuals with diabetes too can manage their condition at the onset to maintain their blood sugar levels, and subsequently their heart health. In fact, countless studies bear witness to the fact that controlling diabetes within one year of detection can result in upto a fifty percent reduction of heart concerns.
3. Lifestyle changes
Lifestyle changes too can help lower the risk for heart disease or keep it from getting worse, as well as helping individuals manage diabetes. These include following a healthy diet, managing stress levels, abstaining from tobacco and alcohol, exercising regularly as well as controlling cholesterol, blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Regular visits to a doctor too, are essential in ensuring optimum health. Ultimately, it is all about taking the first step. Always remember that managing both diabetes and cardiovascular disease is possible. You can always make moderations in your lifestyle to make it healthier. However, do not forget to consult with your doctor before adapting any changes.