It’s not uncommon for diabetes and heart disease to be grouped together when it comes to medical conditions.
But, why? How does diabetes factor into the list of interlinked factors that lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke?
Let’s begin with what diabetes actually is.
Type 1 diabetes is often associated with insulin dependence.
This is because type 1 diabetics produce either little or no insulin at all, and insulin is the hormone responsible for carrying glucose stores to cells all over the body for energy.
Without insulin, blood sugar levels remain abnormally high, and can be incredibly damaging to arteries, leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This, in turn, can lead to heart attack and stroke.
The cause of Type 1 diabetes is still somewhat of a mystery to doctors. However, they DO know that Type 1 diabetes could come about when a virus tells the immune system to attack the pancreas.
Type 2 diabetes can be genetic, but is mainly preventable and often has a later onset in life.
Type 2 diabetes typically comes as a result of obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Things such as not eating healthy and not getting enough exercise can lead to type 2 diabetes.
So…why the heart problems?
When there is nothing to control the levels of sugar in the blood, diabetics are prone to more extreme high and low blood sugars that the body has no means of controlling.
Think of it this way: your insulin is responsible for taking the carbs and sugars your cells need for energy and feeding them to your body’s cells so that they can stay alive.
If insulin isn’t around to act as a leader for this blood sugar, or a caretaker for these cells, they essentially “run amok” and end up in the blood stream in overwhelming amounts.
It’s this build-up of excess blood sugar that can cause artery hardening, and negative effects on the blood vessels of the heart. This in turn leads to high blood pressure and artery blockage.
Am I at risk for diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is rare. About 5% of people with diabetes are type 1, and it’s often diagnosed before age 20. Type 2 diabetes, however, is more preventable, by keeping excess weight at bay, eating healthy, and exercising.
However, if you already have type 1 or 2 diabetes, you can still lead a healthy lifestyle if you regularly check your blood sugar, be careful about what you eat, and get plenty of exercise. However, every diabetic is different, so stay on top of your doctor’s appointments with your endocrinologist!