Diabetes and heart disease are two conditions that tend to co-exist in a patient’s medical history. It is well known and agreed upon that individuals with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease than those individuals without diabetes. Diabetes not only increases your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease but it also doubles your risk of having a stroke. Whether you have diabetes or not, our goal in this KHC University post is to inform and educate you so that you are able to reduce your risk by adopting a healthier lifestyle and improving the quality of your life.
What is Heart Disease
Heart disease can mean any number of things. Some people have heart disease in the form of cholesterol build up in their arteries which prevents proper blood flow. This type of heart disease is referred to as ischemic heart disease and may require the need for a stent (click coronary stent for more information) or possibly bypass surgery.
Others with heart disease may have completely normal arteries within their heart but suffer from valvular heart disease. The valves within your heart literally open and close nearly a billion times throughout your life and regulate the blood that flows within your heart. When these valves become damaged or diseased, the flow of blood through your heart can be dramatically altered. If they do not open or close correctly, the valves are routinely characterized as either a leaky valve or a sticky valve. Overtime, this can lead to an alteration of your heart’s ability to pump blood through your body and ultimately leads to a weakened, structurally abnormal heart.
Another form of heart disease, congestive heart failure, occurs when you have a weakened heart condition from a potential prior infection, heart attack or abnormal valve function. As your heart weakens, it loses the ability to effectively and efficiently pump blood throughout your body and results in symptoms such as shortness of breath or swelling of your lower extremities.
Depending on the specific type of heart disease you have, it affects everyone a little differently. For example, if you have a weakened heart condition you may have difficulty breathing when exercising or just doing your daily activities. Those with cholesterol build up may experience chest discomfort or shortness of breath with exercise or daily activity. No matter the type or cause, consultation with your primary care physician and cardiologist is critical to limit the long term consequences of your specific heart problem.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, in its simplest form, is best thought of as abnormal sugar (or glucose) utilization within your body. This abnormality affects your body’s ability to use the glucose in an efficient manner. In general, your pancreas releases insulin which allows your body to use the sugar as an energy source. Those with diabetes either cannot produce sufficient insulin or their bodies are resistant to its effects. In either case, the results are the same- excessively high levels of sugar (glucose) within the bloodstream and this condition is a large precursor for developing many forms of heart disease. Many times, those with diabetes also suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol, both of which increase one’s risk of heart attack and stroke several times over.
Diabetes is also a significant risk factor for developing chronic kidney disease, peripheral vascular disease and even stroke. Tight glucose control in any diabetic is an important part of one’s overall health management strategy and consultation with your primary care physician or an endocrinologist can be very helpful to limit the long term consequences of diabetes.
Diabetes and Heart Disease
Diabetes that is uncontrolled (or poorly controlled) injures the blood vessels throughout the body. It can cause the arteries to become narrowed over time. This is commonly referred to as peripheral vascular disease and is ultimately a major risk factor for blockages to occur in your arteries. As a result of these blockages, there is a greater risk of stroke from the diseased arteries which may require stents or bypass surgery. In addition, cholesterol build up in the arteries in your abdomen can cause an aneurysm or potential loss of a limb due to poor blood flow to your legs. Careful control of your diabetes will ultimately lower your risk for developing any of these conditions and will vastly improve the quality of your life. People with heart disease alone are not at greater risk for developing diabetes.
What can you do?
Whether you have heart disease, diabetes or both, it is critical to consult with your primary care physician, cardiologist and/or your endocrinologist. It is also important to make sure you are taking your medications as prescribed by your physician as this will help lower your risk and possibly improve your quality of life. Proper control of not only your diabetes but your blood pressure and cholesterol are all key determinants that, if managed well, will lower your lifetime risk for developing heart disease and stroke.
Listed below are a few healthy habits that you can implement into your daily life to lower your risk of many chronic conditions.
Ways to Kare for your heart:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Even losing a little bit of weight can make a difference in lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels! Click here to find out what your BMI is and what a normal range for your height should be.
- Stop smoking. You have probably heard this over and over, but smoking can damage your blood vessels and arteries, placing you at an increased risk for heart disease.
- Exercise consistently. Exercising consistently exercises your heart (making the muscles stronger) and can help you lose weight (or build muscle and maintain a healthy weight). For exercise tips, consider following our Facebook page!
- Eat a healthy diet. A diet low in saturated fats, carbohydrates and sodium is a great start. Click here to learn more about how to eat a heart healthy diet. You are also welcome to join our Heart Healthy Recipe Group on Facebook!
- Decrease your alcohol consumption. Believe it or not, alcohol contains a large number of calories and can increase your risk for high blood pressure, stroke and other chronic diseases.
- Get enough sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is between 7 to 9 hours. Adults who sleep less than 7 hours consistently are more likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke.
- Ask your doctor. By knowing your medical conditions and history, your doctor can provide suggestions on how to lower your risk for these chronic conditions and personalize them specifically for you.
In summary, the term heart disease has many forms but no matter what the type, consistent consultation and communication with your physician is a key component to limiting your lifetime risk for developing a chronic condition. Control of your diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol are just a few of the ways you can live a longer, healthier life. If you or someone you know thinks they may be at risk for heart disease, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our seven providers who are accepting new patients by calling (423) 926-4468.
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Thanks for letting us Kare for your heart!