Diabetes is a red flag when it comes to heart disease. Studies show that people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke. People with diabetes also tend to develop heart disease or have strokes at an earlier age than other people.*
What's the Connection?
Jay D. Shah, M.D., cardiologist with Northwest Indiana Cardiovascular Physicians and Medical Director of Cardiac Rehabilitation at Porter, explained why heart disease is so common in patients with diabetes. "Over the years, high blood sugar slowly causes damage to blood vessels throughout the body – especially in the heart, brain, eyes and kidneys. The result can be increased cases of heart disease, strokes, blindness, kidney damage and limb amputation in people with diabetes." The risk of a heart attack in a diabetic patient is the same as someone who has already had a previous heart attack.*
Dr. Shah also noted that blood glucose levels are not the only things to consider. "The blood vessels in patients with diabetes are more susceptible to other known risk factors, such as smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and studies at Joslin Diabetes Center show more than 90% of patients with diabetes have one or more of these additional risk factors," Dr. Shah said.
Consider Metabolic Syndrome
Dr. Shah shared that high cholesterol and high blood pressure are part of what is called metabolic syndrome. "Having diabetes as part of metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease even more than diabetes alone," he said. He explained that metabolic syndrome includes a waistline of greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men; abnormal cholesterol levels; and elevated blood pressure. "All of these risk factors are related, and they tend to occur together," Dr. Shah shared. "For example, obesity increases the risk for diabetes and most people with diabetes also have high blood pressure because of the blood vessel damage diabetes causes.