My Heart Matters: Understanding the Link Between Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease
A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can be life-changing. Many Canadians may know that having diabetes means it’s important they control their blood sugar levels by closely monitoring their diet, increase their amount of daily exercise, and possibly take medication. In fact, 90 per cent of people with diabetes feel they have a good understanding of all that the disease entails. However, what an alarming 49 per cent of Canadians do not know is that approximately one in two people with type 2 diabetes will die of heart disease.
The hard truth is that diabetes can be a real heartbreaker.
The good news is that knowing and understanding the connection between diabetes and heart disease can be a lifesaver. As the saying goes “knowledge is power”, so educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about how to protect your heart and your heath, and become a powerful advocate for yourself or a loved one with diabetes.
Heart disease and diabetes: the big picture
Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease, including heart attack, heart failure and stroke. It is the number one cause of death for people with diabetes, and it can cause people to develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than people without diabetes.
The problem is, controlling your blood sugar alone may not be enough to protect your heart. Even if your blood sugar levels are well-managed, you still may not be protected from the risks of heart disease. Treatments that reduce the risk of complications related to diabetes are very important to consider, and should be discussed with your doctor.
The most common type of heart disease among people with type 2 diabetes is coronary artery disease, which is a narrowing and/or hardening of the arteries that can lead to a heart attack. Heart failure is also a common complication. It happens when the heart muscle fails to pump blood as well as it should, and it results in the body not getting the amount of blood, oxygen and nutrients it needs.
What can you do to lower your risk?
If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about your risk of heart disease. There are simple steps that you can take right away to help lower risk, manage your diabetes and protect your heart health long term. Recent advances have been made in managing the risk of death from heart disease in people with diabetes, so have the conversation. In fact, according to updated Diabetes Canada guidelines, there are recommended diabetes medications that can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.
At your next appointment, make sure you speak with your doctor about your treatment plan.
It can be daunting – and maybe even a little scary – learning the “what ifs” of a disease like diabetes. But think of it as a way to reclaim control over your body and take back the power you may have felt diabetes robbed you of when you were first diagnosed. You have dreams for your future – adventures to plan, children and grandchildren to enjoy, hobbies to pursue, and lifestyle changes to embark upon – and being as healthy as possible gives you the best chance to make those dreams come true.
In a recent survey, more than half of Canadians with diabetes said they wished they had known about the connection between type 2 diabetes and heart disease sooner, so don’t wait a moment longer.