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The Critical Link between Heart Disease & Diabetes (Type 1 & 2)

The Critical Link between Heart Disease & Diabetes (Type 1 & 2)

Most people with diabetes are often told about the link between heart disease and diabetes. In fact, studies have suggested that 65% of people with diabetes will have some sort of heart disease, if not appropriately managed.

 Although all types of diabetics are at risk of heart complications, the risk is seen to be higher in those with Type-2 diabetes. In reality, heart diseases have been the number one cause of death in Type-2 diabetics.

 The following statistics will throw a light on the relation between heart disease and diabetes:

  • 68 % or more people living with diabetes and aged over 65 years are likely to die due to some cardiovascular disease and 16% die of stroke
  • People with diabetes have two to four times higher risk of dying due to a heart complication than people without diabetes
  • According to The American Heart Association, diabetes is one of the seven major controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Heart Disease and Diabetes: The Undying Link

Heart Disease & Diabetes

Elevated levels of sugar can damage the blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. Over time, the high blood sugar present in the body damages arteries leading to stiffness and hardness of the blood vessels. In such a condition, fatty materials start building inside the blood vessels, also known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition that can block the blood flow to the heart and brain and can hence increase the chances of a heart attack or stroke. This probability of heart disease and diabetes, causing further damage increases if the person has a family history of cardiovascular disease or stroke. 

Hence, the longer you have diabetes, the higher you are at risk of developing heart disease. Since diabetes is a progressive condition, the risk increases. In fact, a person who has diabetes has an equal chance of a heart attack as a non-diabetic who has had a heart attack. 

Heart Disease and Diabetes: What adds to the risk?

Diabetes is a manageable condition where the glucose levels if treated, can be brought back to a normal range. However, that does not reduce the risk of a heart complication in a diabetic. Now that it is evidently clear that heart disease and diabetes have a connection, here are other factors that can add up to this risk:

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure has been longly recognised as a major cause for heart complications. Moreover, studies have shown a significant association between insulin resistance and hypertension, a risk that further increases the chance of heart disease. High blood pressure requires the heart to work harder and pump more blood. This can strain your heart, damage vessels, eye and kidney problems, and more.

Abnormal Cholesterol and High Triglycerides

Cholesterol is a type of fat produced by the liver which is present in your blood and is of two kinds: LDL and HDL. HDL, also known as the bad cholesterol is necessary for your body, whereas LDL, the bad cholesterol in surplus causes blockage and clogging in your blood vessels, thus increasing the risk of heart disease. Another type of blood fat, known as triglycerides, can raise the risk of heart complications.


Overweight - heart disease and diabetes

Obesity is another major cause that can, unfortunately, strengthen the connection between heart disease and diabetes. Obesity, especially belly fat, has shown to increase insulin resistance in the body and decrease insulin production. 

In general, excess belly fat is measured through your waist. You have excess belly if your waist measures.

– More than 40 inches and you are a male

– More than 35 inches and you are a female

 Lack of physical activity

Lack of physical activity is another lifestyle risk factor that increases insulin resistance and heart complications. Exercising can delay the onset of Type-2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure and the risk of heart complications in diabetics. 


If you have diabetes, one of the most important things to do is quit smoking. Smoking raises the risk of heart disease to a few more notches higher since it narrows down the blood vessels. This causes more pressure to the blood vessels to transport nutrients and thus causes inflammation in the vessels. Moreover, smoking also can increase the risk of lower leg infections, such as ulcers and amputations. 

Family history of heart disease and diabetes

A history of heart disease in the family can also add up to the cause of heart disease. If more than one member of your family has had a past of heart disease and diabetes, the risk of you developing the same is higher. Although there is not much you can do if you have a history, however, managing your sugar levels definitely reduce the risk.

Heart disease and Disease: How to lower your chances?

People living with diabetes and with more than one risk factors are at a greater risk of heart disease or stroke. However, by managing the risk factors, diabetics can prevent or delay the onset of a heart complication.

Here are the ways to lower your chances of heart disease:

–       Be physically active

heart disease and diabetes

According to all the leading diabetes organisations, physical activity of 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise is recommended five days a week. This can be divided into three segments of 10 minutes each. Moreover, if you have a sitting job, getting up every 30 minutes for a light activity will give you a break from your sedentary lifestyle.

–       Consider a healthy diet

Reduce consumption of foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat. This includes fried foods, red meat, and eggs. Instead, focus on leafy vegetables and high-fibre foods such as beans and legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. 

–       Lose weight

As mentioned above, if you are an individual that has a waist more than 40 inches and are a male or 35 inches and a female, it is time to shed a few kilos! Losing your weight by even a few kilos can do wonders in reducing the blood pressure and sugar levels. 

–       Keep the cholesterol levels in check

The bad cholesterol or LDL should always be in the lower range, below 100, whereas the good cholesterol or HDL should be higher than 40 – however, the higher, the better. In a case, where you have high cholesterol levels, talk to your diabetes educator and doctor to find out ways or medications that can help you lower it.

–       Maintain your blood pressure

In ideal conditions, the blood pressure should be 120/80 or less. It is recommended to check your sugar levels every time you visit your doctor.

–       Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking can be one of the best things an individual can do for their health. Smoking puts you at risk for heart disease with or without diabetes.

 On World Heart Day, let us all pledge to keep our hearts healthy by focusing on a healthy lifestyle and keeping our sugar levels in check!


Also read: How to use glucometer

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