Diabetes and Heart Health: What You Need to Know in 2023
Time to read 8 min
Time to read 8 min
Suffering from diabetes means you're also at risk of heart disease. If you develop cardiovascular disease and you can't manage it, you may later experience a heart attack or stroke. Your chances of experiencing poor circulation increase too, which can become increasingly difficult to manage as you get older.
Taking good care of yourself is a great way to keep your heart healthy and offset the effects of diabetes. In this guide, we'll help you learn why you're more likely to develop heart disease. We'll also highlight ways you can manage it, including free resources that make lifestyle changes easier.
If you have diabetes, evidence suggests that you're almost twice as likely to suffer from a stroke or heart attack. You also have a higher risk of experiencing heart failure and peripheral arterial disease (narrowed blood vessels in your legs). Fortunately, there are ways to manage your risk profile.
High blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels and create extra work for your heart. When your blood glucose increases, your heart needs to work harder. It also causes inflammation that increases cholesterol buildup and hardens your arteries. When your arteries stiffen, your heart pumps against raised resistance and is placed under strain.
Over time, high blood glucose also damages the nerves in your heart. As those nerves deliver the electrical signals the heart needs to work efficiently, this disrupts normal blood flow.
Other than high blood glucose, your condition may impact the relationship between diabetes and heart health in the following ways:
The term cardiovascular complications covers heart disease and conditions that affect the blood vessels. When you have diabetes, your risk of both increases.
People with diabetes are at risk of developing:
While diabetes increases your risk of heart disease, there are ways you can manage it. A combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and alternative therapies is available.
Overall, the aim of medication is to keep your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol within the right ranges. If you can tick those three boxes, you stand a strong chance of protecting your heart.
Your first port of call for reducing heart disease risk factors is to follow your diabetes treatment plan. Whether you manage your high blood sugar with insulin or an oral medication, adherence is important. Keeping your blood sugar levels within an acceptable range is one of the best things you can do for your heart.
Even with excellent medication adherence, there's still a chance you'll need other drugs. They may include:
The type of medications you use will depend on a variety of factors. They include how well you tolerate them, other medications you're taking, and other underlying conditions.
Lifestyle changes play an important role in heart disease prevention. In many respects, the way you modify your lifestyle is as important as managing your medications. Without healthy living, many medications won't reach their full efficacy.
Adapting your lifestyle to reduce the risk of heart disease benefits your overall well-being. The efforts you make can also stabilize your blood sugar levels, making it easier for you to manage your diabetes overall.
Losing weight comes with multiple benefits. When you're carrying extra weight around your abdomen, you increase your insulin resistance. This, in turn, means you're more likely to suffer from heart disease.
Shifting 5% of your weight is an effective way to lower your blood pressure and increase your HDL levels. If you have another condition, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, you may need to lose more. Your GP or diabetes nurse can offer more advice on the targets to aim for.
Losing weight isn't always easy, but using these free resources can make it easier. You may want to try the 12-week plan, which includes recipes, monitoring, and exercise advice.
Many private plans come with the added benefit of attending groups in person. These groups can help you feel less alone on your weight loss journey and may provide some accountability.
As you lose weight, don't forget to update your GP or diabetes nurse on your progress. They may need to adjust some of your medications so you're still benefiting from the right dose.
Staying fit isn't just about losing weight. It reduces your risk of heart disease in other ways too. Your circulatory system will become more efficient, your heart will grow stronger, and you can offset insulin resistance.
The trick with exercise isn't to find the toughest regime possible. Instead, focus on trying something that fits with your lifestyle and that you enjoy. Even a brisk walk every day can reduce your risk of heart disease.
If you're not a big fitness fan and you don't know where to start, try the following:
If you suffer from type 1 diabetes, always discuss new exercise plans with a medical professional. The fitness routine you adopt may change the amount of insulin you need to take.
Another major contributor to heart disease when you have diabetes is stress. Although stress alone doesn't cause conditions such as heart attacks, the way you respond to it will. Experiencing periods of anxiety may cause you to turn to junk food, alcohol, and can reduce your ability to stick to your diabetes treatment plan.
Exercise and healthy eating will both reduce your stress levels. Staying fit releases endorphins, which boost your mood. Eating a healthy diet prevents the type of energy crashes that make everyday problems feel unmanageable.
You may want to avoid certain actions too. For example, while alcohol might temporarily make you feel better, in the long term it intensifies anxious feelings. It also increases your risk of heart disease further. Similarly, smoking may satisfy a craving, but it raises your blood pressure and makes you more likely to have a heart attack.
If everyday healthy living doesn't improve your stress levels, you may need further help. You can try a combination of the following:
Taking a positive approach to stress management means you're less likely to engage in harmful behaviors. It may also boost your confidence, especially if you find yourself becoming good at a method such as exercise or meditation.
Having diabetes can significantly increase your risk of heart disease. That’s why it's important to keep your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure within healthy ranges. What those ranges are may vary according to your age, race, and other factors. Your doctor or diabetes nurse can offer more advice on this.
As well as using the right medications, it's important to adapt your lifestyle. Doing so doesn't need to feel overwhelming and can benefit many other areas of your life.
At InsuJet, we can make managing your diabetes easier with our needle-free injections. They're convenient and offer a painless alternative to traditional insulin delivery. To learn more, explore our range here.
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