Understanding the link between diabetes and heart disease is extremely vital, especially if you live with type 2 diabetes or know somebody who does. Diabetes is a risk factor for developing heart disease, and heart attack and stroke remain the number one cause of death in people living with diabetes.

Having close family members who have diabetes makes it necessary for me to learn about the disease and to share information that can help people understand the risks that come with having diabetes, including heart disease.

Understanding the Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

The most common form of heart disease in diabetes is coronary artery disease or hardening of the arteries.  This happens when fatty deposits block the arteries that supply the heart with blood. If you smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, do not exercise or eat a balanced diet, your heart is at risk of disease.

And while controlling blood sugar is essential when managing diabetes, there are also diabetes treatments that can reduce the risk of having a heart-related event or dying from heart disease.

Canadians with type 2 diabetes should speak with their doctor about managing and controlling the risks of heart disease. Diabetes Canada also recommends Canadians suffering from diabetes to ask their doctor about the ABCDES to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke:

  • A  A1C – Glucose control target is usually 7% or less
  • B BP – Blood pressure control (less than 130/80 mmHg)
  • C Cholesterol – LDL cholesterol in less than or equal to 2.0 mmol/L. Your doctor may choose to give you medication to keep your cholesterol at or less than 2.0 mmol/L
  • D Drugs to protect your heart: Blood pressure pills (ACE inhibitors or ARBs), cholesterol-lowering pills (statins), or ASA (Aspirin). These drugs will protect your heart even if your blood pressure or cholesterol is already at target.
  • E Exercise / Eating – Regular physical activity which includes, healthy eating, achievement, and maintenance of healthy body weight
  • S Stop smoking and manage stress

Something I personally do to help my family members with diabetes is to encourage them to write down some of the critical questions to ask their doctor before they have their appointments. They are also elderly and sometimes forget what to ask so having a little note as a reminder has been helpful for them.  Also, since heart disease is often a “silent killer,” without obvious symptoms (like sweating, discomfort or trouble breathing), I help them check their blood pressure regularly, same with their cholesterol and glucose levels to ensure those are under control. We purchased at home monitors to do it at home, but you can also check their blood pressure at your local pharmacy for free.

Understanding the Link Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

Remember that even if your blood glucose is well managed, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are protected from the risks of heart disease. Understanding the risks that come with diabetes can help you take the necessary steps to help you reduce the risk of heart disease.

Knowledge can be life-saving so talk to your doctor! You can visit myheartmatters.ca to learn more and be sure to try the Risk Assessment Tool to find out your risk of type 2 diabetes-related heart disease.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by an alliance of two of Canada’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies. However, all opinions and views on this post are 100% my own.