It has been established that diabetes and heart disease are related and that diabetes causes heart disease. However, the pathophysiology of the connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease is both complicated and multifactorial. Therefore, it is important to understand the deep mechanisms of the ailment to help patients avert these potentially destructive complications. Before delving into how this happens, it is good to first look at a few important facts.
Diabetes can strike anybody, from any walk of life. The number of people it has attacked has been dramatically increasing in recent times. Statistics indicate that presently, diabetes claims more lives than breast cancer and AIDS combined. Aside from that, it has been found to be the top cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke. Being a diabetic patient puts a huge strain on the whole family emotionally, physically and financially.
So what is diabetes?
First, you need to understand the role insulin plays in your body. When you eat, your body converts food into sugars or glucose. At this point, the pancreas is expected to release insulin. Insulin can be considered as a “key” to open the cells to facilitate the entrance of glucose and allow a person to utilize the glucose for energy. However, if diabetes is present, this system does not work.
The system becomes chaotic and some major things can go wrong, triggering off the onset of diabetes. The most common forms of the disease are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, is among the other kinds and forms of diabetes.
Diabetes and Your Heart
People with diabetes are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those without diabetes. Diabetes causes high glucose levels in their blood. This may affect the walls of their arteries, and this is likely to make them develop atheroma (fatty deposits). In case fat accumulates in their coronary arteries, they will develop coronary heart disease which can prompt heart attack and angina. Coronary arteries are very important as they supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart.
Heart disease is responsible for death for 80% of people with diabetes. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are likely to be vulnerable from heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. Poor circulation to the legs and feet are some of the vascular problems that are more likely to affect diabetes patients.
The link between diabetes and heart disease begins with large quantities of blood sugar levels. Over time, the arteries are damaged by the high glucose in the bloodstream, causing them to become rigid and inflexible. The fatty material that accumulates inside these blood vessels can in due course obstruct blood flow to the heart or brain. This will lead to heart attack or stroke.
High blood pressure has long been acknowledged as a key risk factor for heart disease. Researchers report a positive link between hypertension and insulin resistance. When patients have a combination of hypertension and diabetes, which is quite common, their vulnerability to heart disease doubles.
People living with diabetes need to make several lifestyle changes to help manage their diabetes and help prevent it from triggering heart disease.