Why Diabetes is a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Diabetes is a condition that occurs when your blood glucose levels are too high. Most people with this disease have type 2 diabetes, usually caused by lifestyle factors, such as poor diet and lack of exercise.

The American Heart Association lists diabetes as one of the major controllable risk factors for heart disease. There are several reasons why diabetes may increase your chances for developing heart disease.

Diabetes damages the heart: Studies have long shown a link between diabetes and heart disease, but the exact reason was not clear. Recent research at the Technical University of Munich finally revealed that high blood glucose levels damage small blood vessels around the heart, ultimately damaging the heart muscle.

Unhealthy cholesterol/triglyceride levels: Diabetes can raise “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lower “good” cholesterol levels. This condition is called diabetic dyslipidemia, and it has been linked to insulin resistance. As unhealthy cholesterol/triglyceride levels are factors in cardiovascular disease, they can also make patients with diabetes particularly vulnerable to this disease.

Obesity: Obesity not only causes insulin resistance, potentially leading to type 2 diabetes, but it is also a main risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight has been shown to reduce the risk of developing both of these diseases.

High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It has also been linked with insulin resistance, meaning that patients with diabetes may also have high blood pressure, which significantly increases their chances of developing heart disease.

Lack of exercise: Living a sedentary lifestyle can make it difficult for you to control your blood sugar levels, which can eventually lead to diabetes. Studies have shown that exercise, particularly weight lifting, is effective at improving glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Living a Heart-Healthy, Diabetes-Free Life

Diabetes is not the only cause of heart disease, but it is a big enough factor to make changing your lifestyle worth it. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and losing weight will help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.