Amy Scholten, MPH
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a complication and cause of premature death among people with
diabetes. Unfortunately, many people with diabetes do not understand the risk of cardiovascular disease or what they can do to help prevent it.
Diabetes is a disorder in which the body
does not make insulin, does not make enough insulin, or
does not properly use the insulin it makes
(insulin resistance). Insulin helps metabolize glucose, the body's primary source of energy. Without insulin, glucose from food cannot enter cells. Glucose builds up in the blood and body tissues become starved for energy. Over time, persistent high blood glucose levels can damage the arteries, kidneys, eyes, nerves, and other tissues.
Adults with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have CVD than people without diabetes.
In people with diabetes, high blood glucose levels are associated with the development of
atherosclerosis. This is a condition in which fatty deposits called plaque damage the lining of the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. Atherosclerosis, a main cause of CVD, interferes with blood flow—ultimately leading to several manifestations of CVD including:
People with type 2 diabetes often have an increased risk of CVD for the following reasons:
Those with the highest risk for diabetes and its CVD complications include:
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the management of 3 critical indicators is essential for reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people with diabetes. It's as easy as ABC:
Individual goals may vary some. Talk to your doctor about which goals are right for you.
People with diabetes can lower their risk of CVD with therapeutic lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation, weight management, and regular exercise. Drug therapy is also available to control some risk factors for CVD and prevent or treat the complications of diabetes.
People with diabetes can take the following steps to help reduce their risk of CVD:
American Diabetes Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Diabetes Association
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Cardiovascular disease & diabetes. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Diabetes/WhyDiabetesMatters/Cardiovascular-Disease-Diabetes_UCM_313865_Article.jsp#.VsM8Vk2FMdU. Updated November 10, 2015. Accessed February 16, 2016.
Diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/diabetes-heart-disease-stroke/Pages/index.aspx. Updated August 2013. Accessed February 16, 2016.
Heart disease. American Diabetes Association website. Available at:
http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/heart-disease. Accessed February 16, 2016.
Hypertension treatments in patients with diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated April 21, 2015. Accessed February 16, 2016.
Lipid management in diabetes. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 13, 2015. Accessed February 16, 2016.
The link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease. US Department of Health and Human Services' National Diabetes Education Program website. Available at:
http://ndep.nih.gov/media/CVD_FactSheet.pdf. Updated February 2007. Accessed February 16, 2016.
Last reviewed February 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
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