How Diabetes Can Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease

Diabetes is one of the most common health problems in our country, and it has farther-reaching consequences than you might ever realize. The negative effects of diabetes aren’t just limited to your blood sugar levels, but it can extend to literally every other aspect of your health.

And your heart is no exception! According to research out of the British University of Leeds, diabetes can increase your risk of not just suffering a heart attack, but that heart attack being FATAL.

The study examined 700,000 patients over the course of 8 years. The scientists measured a wide range of health markers, and they found that people suffering from diabetes had a much higher risk (56%) of dying from what is known as a “STEMI” heart attack.

Essentially, a STEMI heart attack is a complete blockage of the coronary artery. This blockage prevents blood from flowing back to the heart, depriving the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients. This deprivation kills off the heart cells, which is exactly what a heart attack is.

Not only were diabetics 56% more likely to die from this type of heart attack, but they were 39% more likely to die from a heart attack where the coronary artery was only partially blocked (an NSTEMI heart attack).

Even though the researchers removed all other risk factors (chronic disease, heart failure, family history of heart problems, etc.), the link between diabetes and a higher mortality risk remained. It goes to show that diabetes isn’t just limited to your blood sugar levels, but it can affect literally every other part of your body!

How can diabetes cause a higher mortality risk? Doctors aren’t entirely certain, but there is one theory: diabetes can cause chronic elevation of blood sugar levels, but it can also damage the blood vessels. The longer the diabetes persists, the greater the damage to the blood vessels. This includes the blood vessels that circulate blood to the heart. The blood vessels will eventually harden and narrow, a condition called atherosclerosis. This makes the veins less flexible and thus more likely to crack, leading to internal bleeding, blood clots, and arterial obstruction–all of which lead to heart attacks.

As you can see, there is a VERY real connection between the two conditions, and it’s one we all need to be aware of. A staggering number of people suffer from diabetes–up to 10% of the U.S. population–and an additional 37% are well on the way to developing the disease. Even prediabetics are at a higher risk of heart problems, and it’s all the result of chronically high blood sugar levels.

The good news is that it’s fairly easy to get your blood sugar levels and blood pressure under control:

  • Eat healthier — This means cutting back on sugar and eating more healthy, raw, unprocessed food. Most of your nutrients should come from veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and proteins. Limit carbs, and be moderate with your fat intake.
  • Exercise — Exercise burns blood sugar, preventing your glucose levels from getting too high. Try to do at least 3-5 hours of exercise per week, and your risk of diabetes (and heart attack) will go way down.
  • Quit smoking — Smoking doesn’t affect your blood sugar, but it does affect your blood pressure. It also weakens the arterial walls, making them more likely to rupture with high blood pressure. Smoking damages your lungs AND your circulatory system, so it’s definitely in your best interest to quit smoking IMMEDIATELY.

Just a few  simple changes, but they can make all the difference in the world!

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