You’ve probably heard people with diabetes have a higher risk for many health complications. And as it turns out, heart disease is one of those complications. Adults with diabetes are two to four more times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those without diabetes.

However, The Harris Poll conducted a survey of 1,050 U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes, aged 45 and older. They found about half of the participants were aware of the added risk.

Why does diabetes increase the risk of heart disease?

In 1979, the Framingham Heart Study provided the first clue about the heart disease and diabetes connection. The study had over 14,000 people and researchers followed them over a span of 20 years. They found the connection starts with high glucose levels and the body’s inability to effectively use insulin. Research continues to show there is a strong connection between insulin resistance and heart disease.

As a result of diabetes, high glucose levels damages arteries over time, causing fatty material to build up, hardening them. A condition known as atherosclerosis. The hardened arteries blocks blood flow to the heart or brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke.

The other factors that strengthen the connection between diabetes and heart disease are smoking, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. More than 90 percent of people with diabetes have at least one of these additional risk factors.

How can I lower my risk of heart disease?

There are certain risk factors for heart disease, such as age and genetics, that you can’t change. Yet, there are a number of modifiable factors. We also know that if you have a greater understanding of your health, you’ll more likely to do something different.

Start with documenting things about your health. What’s the most important thing to write down? Depends on what your goals are. You might start with your food, as that can give us a lot of insight. Your provider can guide you on what diabetes goals to set.

Making a few changes, like increasing physical activity and getting enough sleep, can also help decrease your risk of developing heart disease.

Monitoring and regulating your blood sugar level can lower your risk of heart disease. Checking blood sugars frequently can help you understand are your medications working as they should? How does certain foods affect your blood sugar. What types of activities affect your blood sugar?

As with many things in life, your glucose monitoring schedule is more effective when it’s based on your individual needs and condition, and always under your doctor’s supervision.

What questions can I ask my doctor at my next diabetes appointment?

Being an informed patient can help improve your health. Here are questions to ask your healthcare provider:

  1. Do I have risk factors that increase my risk for developing heart disease? Your provider will help you identify those risk factors that you can’t change and ones that you can address.
  2. What are my treatment goals? Discuss what your provider sees as your goals to ensure you agree.
  3. What do my results mean? When you get results from labs or other exams, ask your care team to explain what they mean for your health. For example, when you get an A1C result, ask your provider how being out of range affects your body.
  4. What can I do to improve my labs? Asking this question gives you the opportunity to discuss what you can do to improve specific labs.
  5. What resources can help me learn more? Your care team will have resources that can help you learn more about diabetes and heart disease. Plus, they may make referrals to other care team members, like a dietitian.

Also, if you’re not satisfied with what your provider or what you’re hearing from your doctor, get a second opinion. Diabetes is a complex disease and you’re more likely to see positive outcomes when you understand your plan.

Diabetes and Heart Disease Connection

It’s not always easy to make lifestyle changes, but with the help of your support team, you can make it happen. And by doing so you’ll take a major step towards managing your diabetes health and reduce your risk of heart disease.

The information we provide at welldoc.com is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace a consultation with a medical professional. Please inform your physician of any changes you make to your diet or lifestyle and discuss these changes with them. If you have questions or concerns about any medical conditions you may have, please contact your physician.

Register for our webinar with the American Telemedicine Association
Connecting the Dots in Chronic Care: How Data Insights Transform the Patient Experience