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World Heart Day Special: How diabetes increases heart disease risk

A patient with diabetes can experience damaged arteries, which become easy targets for hardening, called atherosclerosis, that can cause high blood pressure. If not treated on time, it can lead to trouble, including blood vessel damage, heart attack and kidney failure, says Dr Vishal Khullar, Director - CTVS, Heart and Lung Transplantation, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital

Losing weight can improve the body mass index, thus reducing the risk of diabetes, says Dr Khullar. (Express/File Photo)

Written by Dr Vishal Khullar

Diabetes is considered as a catalyst for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), the leading cause of death globally. As younger Indians are now being detected with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), their risk of developing cardiovascular disease is almost two to four-fold higher than those without diabetes.

Being identified as the diabetes capital of the world, people of Indian or South Asian origin are already at a higher risk of developing diabetes and CHDs as compared to others. A few common causes are our predisposition to a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) that damages the walls of arteries, excess body fat and imbalance of good and bad cholesterol.

However, despite genetic predisposition, lowering the risk of heart disease is possible by understanding its relation to diabetes and making necessary lifestyle changes.

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Blood Sugar Monitoring

Blood sugar needs to be monitored timely to safeguard against the risk of sudden high or low blood sugar levels in the body. Without proper monitoring, people with diabetes are more likely to suffer from the conditions that raise the risk for heart disease. High blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart. High blood pressure increases the force of blood through the arteries and can damage artery walls.

Dr Vishal Khullar, Director – CTVS, Heart and Lung Transplantation, Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital

Hypertension and Diabetes

Higher than normal blood pressure is called hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure. Constant blood pressure measured above normal may result in a diagnosis of high blood pressure (or hypertension). A patient with diabetes can experience damaged arteries and make them easy targets for hardening, called atherosclerosis, that can cause high blood pressure. If not treated on time, this condition can lead to trouble, including blood vessel damage, heart attack and kidney failure. Untreated diabetes can also cause heart attacks or weaken the heart because cardiovascular disease affects the blood circulation too. And poor circulation worsens other complicated diabetes – like prolonged problems with eyes and feet.

Obesity

Obesity is a serious medical problem that increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. It is a condition where cells of fat tissues have to process more nutrients than they can already manage. The stress in these cells triggers an inflammation that releases a protein known as cytokine. These cytokines then block the signals of insulin receptors, thus gradually causing the cells to become resistant to insulin. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are closely related. Obesity is one of the major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

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Good and Bad Cholesterol

LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is also called bad cholesterol as it can stick to arteries, collect in the vessel lining forming plaque, and sometimes block blood flow. HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is sometimes called good cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) diabetes often lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels and raises triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Both of these increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Sedentary lifestyle

Sedentary lifestyle practices such as smoking, drinking and poor dietary habits impact diabetes and cardiac health of a person. Smoking is one of the causes of Type 2 diabetes, where people who smoke cigarettes are 30 to 40 per cent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke. People with diabetes who smoke are more likely than those who don’t smoke to have trouble with insulin dosing and with managing their condition.

Damaged Blood Vessels

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Over time, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart. People with diabetes are also more likely to have other conditions that raise the risk for heart disease: High blood pressure increases the force of blood through your arteries and can damage artery walls.

To-Dos for better diabetes management and heart health

• Losing weight can improve the body mass index, thus reducing the risk of diabetes and hence lower the risk of heart disease.

• Adapting to a more physically active lifestyle can allow better management of diabetes and hence reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

• Eat more nutrients, vitamins, minerals and a healthy balanced meal.

• Eat healthy fats.

• Timely blood sugar and other health check-ups.

First published on: 29-09-2022 at 09:25 IST
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