Diabetes and your heart
Having diabetes puts you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as an increased risk for death from the disease. Cardiologist Meghan Businaro, DO, explained why and what you can do to protect your heart.
“About 65% of diabetic patients die from cardiovascular disease. Diabetic women are especially at high risk for dying of heart disease with a 2–4 times increased risk of death,” she said.
Why? Uncontrolled diabetes causes the following problems:
- Significant damage to your blood vessels and multiple organs in the body.
- Increased blood pressure
- The development of atherosclerosis at a younger age and at a higher rate than patients without diabetes. Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque inside your arteries.
“The process of atherosclerosis typically has no symptoms,” Dr. Businaro explained. “That may be because other arteries help the artery that has limited blood flow by forming little bridges that bring extra blood flow to the heart muscle. But as the plaque continues to progress, and less and less blood flow gets to the heart muscle, that muscle can be damaged and result in a heart attack.”
What are symptoms of a heart attack?
Dr. Businaro said there are subtle signs to suggest there may be something that should be explored further by your healthcare provider.
Men and women can experience these symptoms:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Discomfort or tingling in the arms, back, neck, shoulder or jaw
- Sudden dizziness
For women, there are additional symptoms, including:
- Excess fatigue and unusual feelings of tiredness not related to any particular exertion
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heartburn-like symptoms
- Cold sweat
“If these symptoms are experienced, I would recommend further evaluation,” she said.
If you have diabetes, how can you keep your heart healthy?
Dr. Businaro said there are eight things that you can do to prevent heart disease:
- Know your risk. If you are age 40 to 75 and you’ve never had a heart attack or stroke, you can use Prisma Health’s free heart health assessment to estimate your risk of having a cardiovascular event over the next 10 years.
- Eat a healthy diet. Center your eating plan around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, and lean animal products. Limit your refined carbohydrates, processed meats and sweetened drinks. Use food labels to help cut back on salt, sugar and saturated fat. And always try to avoid trans fat.
- Be physically active. Adults should get 150 minutes per week of walking or 75 minutes per week of a moderate intense aerobic activity such as jogging.
- Watch your weight. Lose weight if you are considered overweight or obese. Eat fewer calories and move more.
- Live tobacco free. There is no such thing as a safe tobacco product.
- Manage your conditions. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other conditions that put you at risk, work with your healthcare provider to help get them under control.
- Take your medicines. Take all medications as directed by your primary provider or your specialists so that you can manage your health conditions.
- Be a team player. Your healthcare team can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and live a longer and healthier life. Be open about challenges, such as stress, sleep, mental health, family situations, food access and social support. If these are affecting you, be sure to talk to your provider.
“Remember, 80% of heart disease is preventable,” Dr. Businaro said.
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