Blog Post

The Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

You know about finger pricking, diet modifications, and insulin shots. What you may not realize is just how far diabetes reaches into your body. This chronic condition touches virtually every system, including your cardiovascular system. 

It gets even more unsettling when you look at the research:

But it’s not all bad news. Diabetes doesn’t have to become a black cloud over your heart health, especially if you catch it early and work hard to manage it. 

Dr. Fahmi Farah and our team at Bentley Heart in Fort Worth, Texas, are here with the details on exactly how diabetes impacts your heart health and how you can respond proactively. 

Understanding heart disease

Before we investigate the link between diabetes and heart disease, it’s best to understand it.

Heart disease includes several issues that affect your heart, including coronary artery disease (CAD), valvular heart disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). 

Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. It develops when plaque accumulates along the walls of your arteries, which are the vessels that supply oxygen and blood to your heart. 

Plaque is made of cholesterol deposits, which, as they build up in your arteries, narrow the vessels and restrict blood flow. This process is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of your arteries. 

As blood flow decreases, your risk for a heart attack skyrockets. Blocked and hardened coronary arteries can also cut off blood flow to your brain and cause a stroke. 

Your coronary arteries aren’t the only places plagued by plaque buildup; the arteries in your legs and feet (your peripheral arteries) can also become narrow and hardened, leading to peripheral artery disease, which is often the first sign that someone with diabetes has a cardiovascular problem. 

When diabetes sets in

There’s more than one way diabetes can impact your heart. 

The American Heart Association found that those with diabetes are more prone to having high levels of “bad” cholesterol, which can accumulate and cause arterial diseases. Being diabetic means you’re also more at risk for high blood pressure. 

But it doesn’t stop there. Over time, high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels and nerves that support and control your heart. 

Many heart problems don’t have any obvious symptoms, so it’s important to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels often. You should also be aware of and manage other contributing risk factors for heart disease, including: 

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or having obesity
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Eating a diet high in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, and salt
  • Drinking too much alcohol

If we suspect you have a heart problem and know you’re at risk, we can test for heart disease with an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), an echocardiogram (echo), and/or a stress test.

Your next steps

Just because you’re more at risk for heart problems doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself. 

There’s no cure for diabetes and no guarantee to reverse it, but follow these simple management strategies, and you can get it under control and support your heart health simultaneously:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains
  • Stop eating processed foods, sugary drinks, and alcohol
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Increase your activity levels
  • Manage your stress levels

It’s also important to keep your ABCS in check (A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking habits). You may consider working with a diabetes educator, as well. 

If you have more questions about your heart and overall health, we’d love to talk more with you. Call our friendly staff or use our online booking tool to schedule an appointment with Dr. Farah today.