Sharing the same risk factors, diabetes and heart disease often come hand-in-hand. Read on to find out more about the links between diabetes and heart disease.
Diabetes is most frequently associated with cardiovascular and heart diseases. In fact, heart disease has been identified as one of the leading causes of death in people with diabetes. Compared to adults without diabetes, those with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease.
But the question is — why? What exactly is it that ties the two together?
There are several risk factors shared between diabetes and heart disease
Individuals with diabetes oftentimes possess the same risk factors associated with heart disease. Given that the two conditions share several of the same risk factors, individuals with diabetes are also at higher risk of succumbing to heart disease.
Some of these factors include:
High blood pressure: According to the American Heart Association (AHA), those diagnosed with both hypertension and diabetes have double the risk of contracting heart disease.
Unhealthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides: Unhealthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, and is a major contributor in the body developing an insulin resistance.
Obesity, or a Body Mass Index (BMI) rating of over 30: Cardiovascular risk and insulin sensitivity are higher in individuals who are obese and diabetic.
Lack of physical activity
An unhealthy diet: In particular, a diet high in:
Saturated and Trans Fats
Diabetes also affects the heart’s function
The elevated blood sugar levels of individuals with uncontrolled diabetes can, over time, cause damage or inflammation in blood vessels and disrupt the normal flow of blood in the heart. This inflammation in the arteries can result in a buildup of cholesterol and plaque if left untreated over a long-term. With the heart facing more obstruction when pumping blood, it would have to work harder to fulfil its regular functions.
Diabetes could also cause nerve damage throughout the body. This includes the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels, thereby leading to more complications within the heart.
The best way to prevent or manage diabetes and heart disease
The easiest way to manage these conditions are by managing your diet. In general, dietitians recommend a diet that helps reduce blood pressure, overall cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and regulate blood sugar levels.
This might sound more than a little complicated and daunting but is in fact, rather easy to practice — all you need to do is to opt for fresh, whole foods and cut back on heavily processed food products. Keep a look out for products that are:
Saturated Fats (and free of trans fats)
Do opt for more whole-grain products as well if you can — whole-grains are usually better for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes as they tend to possess a lower Glycemic Index (GI) and are more effective for managing blood sugar levels.
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