Diabetes and the havoc it can wreak on our bodies is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.
My family has a long history of diabetes, I have aunts, nieces, and cousins with this disease. In my years of working as a Registered Nurse, I have also cared for a number of patients with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can lead to several health problems including blindness, foot ulcers, and amputations, but heart disease is the most common cause of death.
Diabetes can “literally” be a heartbreaker.
The Connection Between Diabetes and Heart Disease
The facts on the connection between diabetes and heart disease are clear.
Approximately one in two people with type 2 diabetes die due to heart disease (which includes heart attack, heart failure, and stroke).
People with diabetes are over three times more likely to be hospitalized for heart health problems than people without diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can lead to an early death from heart disease as people with diabetes may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than people without diabetes.
According to a recent survey, most Canadians (94 percent) with type 2 diabetes feel that they are knowledgeable about their diabetes management, however, almost half (49 percent) are unaware that their diabetes alone significantly increases their risk of heart disease.
This is an extremely worrisome knowledge deficit!
How does heart disease happen?
Heart disease happens when the heart or the blood vessels supplying blood to the heart have been damaged.
In addition to having diabetes, other risk factors for heart disease include:
- Having high blood pressure
- Having high cholesterol
- Being overweight or not exercising
People with diabetes who also have one or more of these other risk factors are at an even greater risk of heart disease or stroke.
Heart disease or conditions affecting the blood vessels can include or contribute to:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
A heart attack may appear to be an isolated event, but it can be a sign of a much more serious and long-term heart health problem and can lead to heart failure.
How People with Diabetes Type 2 Can Reduce Their Risk of Developing Heart Disease
For people with type 2 diabetes, managing blood sugar alone may not be enough to protect the heart.
Diabetes Canada recommends that people with diabetes ask their doctor about the ABCDEs that may help reduce their risk of heart disease.
- ABCDEs to reduce the risk:
- A – A1C: Control blood glucose levels and keep A1C around 7 percent or less. A1C is a blood test that is an index of the average blood glucose level over the last 120 days
- B – Blood pressure: Keep blood pressure to less than 130/80 mmHg
- C – Cholesterol – LDL (bad) cholesterol target is 2.0 mmol/L or less
- D – Drugs to protect your heart – Speak with your doctor about medication options to help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
- E – Exercise – Regular physical activity, along with healthy diet, and achievement and maintenance of a healthy body weight
- S – Smoking and stress – Avoid smoking and manage stress effectively
Prevalence, Risk, and Symptoms in Canada
An estimated 3.5 million Canadians have diabetes, 90 percent of whom have type 2 diabetes. In fact, according to the 2015 Diabetes Report: Driving Change, from 2000 to 2010 the rate of diabetes in Canada more than doubled, and this trend is projected to continue.
Several factors, including high blood pressure, cholesterol and being overweight, can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Having a close relative with diabetes, and people of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian, or African descent, may also indicate an increased risk of diabetes and need more frequent testing. Diabetes Canada urges Canadians over 40 be tested for diabetes at least once every three years.
As mentioned previously, people with type 2 diabetes can experience heart problems, such as heart disease which, can lead to heart attack and heart failure. It’s also important to emphasize, the management of blood sugar alone may not be enough to protect the heart.
The good news is that recent advances have been made in managing the risk of death from cardiovascular disease for people with diabetes. According to the updated Canadian Cardiovascular Society Guidelines for the Management of Heart Failure, there is now a recommended medication for people with type 2 diabetes for prevention of heart failure-related outcomes.
Knowledge Can Save Your Life
For Canadians with type 2 diabetes, the risk of heart disease is real – but so are the solutions to help reduce the risk.
We all have plans for the future and people with diabetes are no different. Be it travelling, spending time with grandchildren or family summers at the lake, whatever motivates you, it’s important to speak to your doctor about ways to manage your diabetes and protect your heart health in the long term.
While 96 percent of Canadians with type 2 diabetes see their doctor at least once a year, many are not having conversations about their risk of heart disease. Be proactive, HAVE THE CONVERSATION!
Knowing the connection between diabetes and heart disease could save your life!
To better understand the link between type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and to take the online risk assessment, visit www.myheartmatters.ca.
Disclosure – This post is sponsored by an alliance of two of Canada’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies. As always, all opinions are honest and my own.