Diabetes in itself is a chronic condition which can turn out to be fatal if not managed on time. However, one of the major reasons of the fatality is due to the connection of diabetes and heart attacks. Having diabetes means you are most likely to have a heart attack or stroke. In fact, women with diabetes have a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases than those who are non-diabetic of the same age group.
How is diabetes related to heart diseases?
The relation of diabetes and heart diseases starts with blood vessels. Blood vessels are vital for the body for transportation of glucose and insulin to the cells. High glucose levels can damage the blood vessels in no time. With time, diabetes affects the blood flow and makes the arteries hard and stiff. Fatty material builds up on the walls of the arteries that cause high pressure in blood flow causing blockage of flow to the heart and brain. This eventually turns into heart attacks or stroke.
What other factors increase heart diseases if I have diabetes?
The blood vessels of diabetics are more prone to get damaged than of a non-diabetic. However, if you are a diabetic there are other factors that add your chances of developing a heart disease or stroke.
Smoking increases the risk of heart diseases. The nicotine in the cigarettes narrows down the blood vessels leading to more force in blood flow which eventually blocks the blood flow to the heart. Smoking also leads to insulin resistance which leads to high sugar levels.
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure strains the heart, damages blood vessels and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Hypertension diabetes( more than 140/90 or higher) can also cause heart diseases which include inadequate pumping of blood, enlarged heart (cardiomegaly) and heart tissues not getting enough blood.
- Obesity/Belly Fat
Being overweight adds up to the worries of a diabetic person for chances of heart attacks. Obesity affects the ability to manage diabetes and is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
To determine whether you are obese or not, two measurements are used:
- BMI (Body Mass Index)
A measure that factors a person’s height and weight to determine obesity.
- Waist circumference
The waist circumference is the measurement of the waist, just above the navel. Excess belly fat, even if you are not overweight can become a cause for heart attacks.
- Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a fat produced by the liver that helps the body to build new cells and produce hormones. The cholesterol is of three types, LDL, HDL and triglycerides. However, cholesterol also enters from the food such as dairy products, fatty meat and fast foods apart from what is produced by the liver. When the cholesterol levels (LDL) are high in the body, fatty material builds-up on the walls of the arteries which causes the blood vessels to narrow down. This serious heart condition is called atherosclerosis which can lead to heart attacks.
- Family history
If one or more members of your family had a heart attack before the age of 50, you are more likely to have a heart attack. A family history adds up to the risk of having a heart attack.
Even though you can’t change if heart diseases run in your family, you can prevent further complications if you manage your diabetes.
Can I prevent heart attack if I have diabetes?
The good news here is that in spite of the risks with diabetes, heart attacks can be prevented by keeping a check on few regular activities.
- Monitoring blood sugar levels
Monitoring your blood sugar levels will help not only help in diabetes but also help to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Hba1c or Glycated haemoglobin is a form of haemoglobin that is measured to identify the three-month average glucose concentration in the blood. However, only managing Hba1c is not useful as BGL is equally important.
Hba1c is a report card of your past three months sugar levels whereas BGL provides information about the present. Hyperglycaemia or Hypoglycaemia can only be detected through constant monitoring.
Hence, periodic monitoring of sugar levels is as significant.
- Quit smoking
We have already mentioned what smoking does to your blood vessels. So, if you do, make plans to stop smoking or begin a smoking cessation program.
- Control your weight
Again, obesity creates complications for the body. If you are overweight or obese, your BMI will be higher than 25. The normal BMI should be between 18.9-24.5.
Also, keep a check on the waist circumference. A waist circumference of 40 inches or more in men and 35 inches or more in women is associated with risks of heart diseases.
- Keep a check on cholesterol levels
Cholesterol levels can become a major factor for cardiovascular diseases. Hence, keeping them in check is a necessity. As we said, our blood lipids contain HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides. So, the lower the LDL and higher the HDL, the more better it is.
Keep in touch with your diabetes educator to know what your cholesterol levels should be.
- Blood pressure levels
When blood pressure levels are high, the heart gets strained to pump blood. People with high blood pressure are most likely to have a heart attack. Hence, controlling your blood pressure can help in preventing heart attacks.
- Reduce stress
Stress contributes to cardiovascular diseases and if severe, can lead to heart attacks or sudden death. Try to manage stress by doing certain activities including volunteering or attending religious services. Some people believe watching TV can relieve stress. However, it only aggravates stress. Moreover, try to avoid situations where you can become anxious or angry.
Exercising helps you to manage diabetes and make your heart stronger. However, talk to your diabetes coach before taking a proper exercise regime. People with heart problems need to be careful before taking up a specific regime.
- Develop a healthy lifestyle
Developing a healthy lifestyle helps not only in diabetes but for overall well-being. Eating a healthy diet and getting a good sleep can do wonders for your body. Make sure you stay active as it is beneficial for both, physical and mental health.
Diabetes in itself is a chronic condition and therefore needs to be managed accordingly. It is called a silent killer because diabetes and heart attacks go hand in hand. Therefore, keeping the heart healthy is necessary as it the key organ of the human body.
In this era of digitalisation where new techniques and new insights develop constantly, managing diabetes has become easy. The need to constantly monitor and provide guidance is fulfilled by one such diabetes management organisation, BeatO. It is a one stop shop for all diabetes related services where you can convert your smartphone in to a glucose monitor and receive personalised insights on the readings by the diabetes coach.
As it is said, “With a healthy heart, the Beat goes on!”