What Is Diabetic Heart Disease?
Diabetes and heart disease are very common in older adults. In fact, there are approximately 4 million older adults in the United States that have both diabetes and heart disease.

This article discusses how these two common conditions affect each other and how you can avoid the complications associated with diabetic heart disease.

Why Diabetics Are at a Higher Risk of Heart Disease
When people think of heart disease, they usually don’t think of diabetes. However, people with diabetes are at greater risk for heart attacks than the general population.

Some people with type 2 diabetes who have had a heart attack may experience clots and other problems that can lead to future events.

There are many reasons why people with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease:

  • Many people with diabetes don’t know they have it or don’t realize how serious it can be. Undiagnosed diabetes substantially increases your risk for heart disease and stroke because high blood sugar damages blood vessels, including those in the heart.
  • Diabetes makes it harder to control blood pressure and cholesterol, both of which are important factors in preventing cardiovascular disease.

Read on to discover more.
Understanding Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not make or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that lets your body cells take in glucose for use as fuel. If you have diabetes, you either don’t have enough insulin or your body does not respond properly to the insulin you make.

Diabetes can cause many chronic illnesses like heart disease, kidney failure, and nerve damage to the feet. All of those result in death if they are not tended to at a hospital. Diabetes also has other health issues such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

When someone mentions diabetes and heart disease, your first thought might be type 2 diabetes. This is the disease that afflicts 9 out of 10 people with diabetes.

In fact, it is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and has doubled in frequency since 1980. If these numbers aren’t staggering enough to you, know that 80% of those diagnosed are over 65 years old.

Understanding Diabetic Heart Disease
Diabetic heart disease is a broad term that encompasses several conditions that involve structural problems with the heart and related complications caused by diabetes. These include:
● Coronary artery disease (CAD), or hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle;
● Cardiomyopathy, or damage to the structure of the heart muscle;
● Angina pectoris, pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle;
● Heart attack (myocardial infarction);
● Stroke; and
● Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), or narrowing of arteries in the arms and legs that causes leg pain when walking and may lead to amputation if not treated.
So how does diabetes increase the risk of developing these conditions? Discover more below.
What is its Connection to Heart Disease?
Diabetes and heart disease are closely linked and should be treated as such. Many people with diabetes also have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or both, which is why doctors recommend some form of cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering medication for them. However
Diabetes increases the risk of developing heart disease, and people with diabetes are more likely to die from heart disease than people without diabetes.

Areas that could be affected by diabetic heart disease

When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t process sugars correctly, so people with diabetes often have high levels of glucose in their blood after eating a meal. This can cause damage to the arteries and lead to heart disease in the form of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

High levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood can also contribute to the hardening of the arteries and increase your risk for heart disease.

For instance, patients with type 1 diabetes are at a greater risk of developing hypertension because their kidneys aren’t able to process sodium properly, which causes them to retain water and develop high blood pressure. This increases their risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
Which Heart Diseases Affect Diabetics?
The CDC estimates that about 60 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease. That’s because diabetic heart disease is a leading cause of death for those with the condition, especially if they don’t manage their condition properly.
In fact, diabetic heart condition kills more people each year in the United States than non-diabetic heart conditions do.
Diabetics have an increased risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), myocardial infarction (MI), and stroke.
1. Coronary artery disease
People with diabetes are more susceptible to CAD because they have abnormalities in their lipid profile (hypercholesterolemia, hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL cholesterol, elevated apo B) and higher blood pressure.
In fact, the incidence of CAD among diabetics has been reported to be two to four times greater than in nondiabetics.
Several reports indicate that the mortality rate from CAD is more than twice as high in diabetics as in nondiabetics. Smoking and hypertension also contribute to increased cardiovascular mortality among diabetics.
2. Heart attacks
Diabetes can affect the heart directly. Many people with diabetes have heart attacks that aren’t linked to any other known causes of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or coronary artery disease. This condition is called diabetic cardiomyopathy.
3. Peripheral vascular disease
People with diabetes also develop the peripheral vascular disease (PVD) at a younger age, and PVD accounts for approximately one-third of all lower-limb amputations. Diabetes is also a major cause of renal failure.
It contributes not only to the development of renal disease but also to poor nephropathy outcomes. The presence of nephropathy significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular events such as MI and death.
4. Stroke
Having high blood pressure significantly increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke so it’s important to control this too if you have type 2 diabetes. Managing your pressure saves live by reducing the risk of heart disease.
Managing Diabetic Heart Disease
Treating both diseases is important so you can live a healthy, full life. But treating them separately can be very expensive. If you get both diseases treated as one condition, your health care costs will likely be lower and you’ll have more time to focus on other things that are important to you.
For example, by working closely with your doctor, you may be able to lower your diabetes medication doses or reduce the number of times you need to go into the hospital for heart disease treatment.
That may make it easier for you to continue doing things that are important to you, like staying active and taking care of your family.
“The key is to get your glucose under control as much as possible, but not forgetting that you must also treat and manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight,” says cardiologist Benjamin Aaron, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
“If you do all four of those things together, they will all work synergistically to improve your long-term outlook.”
What are the Risk Factors for Diabetic Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes. Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.
Treatment for heart disease in people with diabetes focuses on controlling these risk factors. For example, people with diabetes should take medications to control their blood pressure and cholesterol. If a person has coronary heart disease, then he or she may need to take medications to treat angina or have a procedure such as angioplasty to open a blocked artery.
Diabetes can affect the heart directly. Many people with diabetes have heart attacks that aren’t linked to any other known causes of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or coronary artery disease.
This condition is called diabetic cardiomyopathy — it’s about 10 percent of all diabetic heart attacks. A healthy lifestyle can prevent and delay diabetic cardiomyopathy.
If you have diabetes, always see your doctor regularly to monitor your heart health and prevent complications from both diseases.
The Bottom Line on Diabetic Heart Disease
Diabetes can lead to chronic inflammation that can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease.
Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, but you can reduce your risk by learning all you can about the links between them – as well as managing your blood sugar levels and making lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.
Having high blood pressure significantly increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke so it’s important to control this too if you have type 2 diabetes. Treating high blood pressure preserves lives by reducing the risk of heart disease.