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Diabetics and cardiovascular diseases

Updated on October 28, 2013

Diabetics have more cardiovascular diseases-

The diabetics-

  • Are at higher risk for heart disease
  • May develop heart disease at a younger age
  • May have more severe heart disease

It is a known fact that Diabetes Mellitus has assumed epidemic proportions globally. Currently, it affects 256 million people worldwide and every year 7 million people develop the disease adding to the burgeoning epidemic. The disease is a chronic one, which gives rise to many complications affecting different parts of the body. One of the important complications of the disease is cardiovascular, affecting heart and blood vessels.

The people with type-2 diabetes die 5 to 10 years before people without it. 50% of the people suffering from diabetes die due to cardiovascular disease (CVD). People suffering from type-2 diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack as people not suffering from it. They are as likely to suffer from a heart attack as people without diabetes who has already had an attack.

Both type-1 and type-2 diabetes are risk factor for cardiovascular disease. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is brought on due to the hardening (atherosclerosis) of coronary blood vessels of the heart. Atherosclerosis results in the blockage of the coronary vessels and when a major vessel is blocked, the blood supply to the area supplied by that vessel is stopped, resulting in the death of tissue of that area. This is known as heart attack (myocardial infarction). In diabetics, the onset of the heart attack may occur without any symptom of pain.

Reasons why diabetic have more cardiovascular diseases-

The epithelial lining of the blood vessels produces nitrous oxide, the action of which is to relax smooth muscles of the vessels, thereby dilating them. A normal insulin level in the blood stimulates the production of nitrous oxide (NO) from the epithelium of the vessels. The diabetics, who are resistant to insulin, its stimulatory effect is lost, resulting in lack of production of nitrous oxide. Since there is little dilatation of blood vessels due to the lack, the plaque formation hastens up. This causes blockage of coronary vessels. Moreover, the smooth muscles of the blood vessels are hyperactive in diabetics, thus further encouraging the plaque formation.

Since a chronic disease activates inflammatory process in the body, diabetes does the same too. The inflammation enhances plaque formation, thereby further worsening the atherosclerosis.

Normally, during the metabolism of the body, free radicals are produced. The environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke, use of herbicides accelerate the production of free radicals. It is noteworthy that they accumulate with age. An excess of free radicals in the body makes blood cells stickier, further promoting the plaque formation.

Apart from heart attack (myocardial infarction), there is also an increase in the incidence of angina and heart failure. The incidence of other vascular diseases like stroke and peripheral vascular disease is quite high in people suffering from diabetes.

It is encouraging to learn that healthy lifestyle choices reduce the incidence of diabetes and may even prevent the disease. A weight loss, healthy dietary choices and increased physical activity will improve the cardiovascular risk factors in diabetics.

Heart diseases found in diabetics- The following heart diseases are associated with diabetes-

Coronary artery disease-

  • In this disease, a waxy plaque develops inside the coronary arteries which supply oxygen rich blood to the heart muscle. The plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, and other substances found in the blood. Plaque build-up in the arteries is called atherosclerosis. Plaque narrows the coronary arteries, reducing the blood flow to the heart. The build-up of plaques encourages the formation of clots in the arteries. Clots can partially or completely block the blood flow to the heart muscle. Coronary heart disease can lead to angina, arrhythmias (irregular heart beats), a heart attack or even death.

Heart failure-

  • It is a condition. in which the heart can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped or is going to stop working. Heart failure is a serious condition that requires medical care. If an individual has heart failure, he or she may tire easily and have to limit the activities. Coronary heart disease can lead to heart failure by weakening the heart muscle over time.

Diabetic cardio-myopathy-

  • The disease damages the structure and function of the heart. It can lead to heart failure and arrhythmias, even in people who have diabetes but don’t have coronary heart disease.

People, who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, can develop heart disease. The higher a person's blood sugar level is, the higher his or her risk of heart disease.


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