Type 2 Diabetes: A Catalyst for Heart Disease
Diabetes affected over 3.9 million adult Filipinos in May 20201. Type 2 diabetes, a condition where your body either fails to produce enough insulin or cannot properly metabolize its insulin supply, makes up a large chunk of that figure.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, experts considered type 2 diabetes a lifestyle disease. Being a lifestyle disease means it is triggered by unhealthy habits such as junk food consumption and a lack of regular exercise.
Being a lifestyle disease means it is avoidable. Although you may have a genetic predisposition, if you carry out sufficient preventive measures, you have a better chance at preventing or, at the very least, delaying the onset of this type of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes has a long list of symptoms2. This may include increased thirst and hunger, fatigue, slow-healing sores, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, frequent urination, frequent infections, blurred vision, unintended weight loss, and areas of darkened skin.
If you experience any or all of these signs of diabetes, it is best to consult with your doctor and have your blood sugar levels tested. Negligence can lead to serious problems.
Unmanaged diabetes increases your risk of contracting other medical conditions3 such as nerve damage, eye damage, kidney disease, sleep apnea, and skin ailments. More importantly, it makes you more susceptible to heart disease.
Heart disease is the most common cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes. It is an umbrella term for an array of health conditions like heart attack, among others. Here’s an infographic by For Your Sweetheart showing the link between type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
What’s the connection between type 2 diabetes and heart disease?4
People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as heart problems. In fact, CVD causes approximately two-thirds of deaths of people with type 2 diabetes.5
The connection between diabetes and heart disease lies in the former’s category as a vascular ailment. That means that the condition affects your blood vessels. Ideally, the sugar in your blood is stored in the liver until the body needs it as a source of energy. For people with diabetes, though, sugar accumulates within blood vessels, which leads to blockage.6
Over time, the blood vessels compromised by diabetes narrow and stiffen. They become less reliable in supplying blood to vital organs such as your heart.7
Having diabetes shortens a person’s lifespan by at least six years. Meanwhile, having both diabetes and a history of heart disease shortens a person’s lifespan by as much as 12 years. These scary numbers should convince you to start prioritizing your health.
Diabetes risk factors that increase the chances of contracting CVD8,9,10
Aside from diabetes, other related risk factors may increase your chances of contracting heart disease. They are as follows:
- Smoking. Diabetes narrows your blood vessels; so does smoking. If you’re a smoker who has diabetes, the risk of contracting heart disease is doubled. That is on top of other complications, such as damage to blood vessels in your lower extremities. The result of that is a prolonged healing time for lower leg infections, putting you at risk of gangrene and, eventually, amputation. To reduce the likelihood of these health problems, consider quitting smoking as early as now.
- High blood pressure. This medical condition means your heart is working extra hard to pump blood. The force of blood streaming through your arteries is also elevated. Over time, this level of strain damages the walls of your arteries and blood vessels. When combined with diabetes, high blood pressure increases your risk of contracting heart disease.
- High bad cholesterol levels. Too much bad cholesterol coursing through your blood vessels results in the accumulation of plaque on already damaged artery walls, which can eventually clog the flow of blood. If you have diabetes, you must avoid fatty meat and dairy products as much as you can. Replace pork fat with fatty fish and dairy products with fruits like avocado.
- Obesity. Obesity pretty much checks all the risk factors that trigger heart disease. It is almost synonymous with high blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels. Obesity is also a risk factor for diabetes—consider this condition a double whammy. It’s high time to shed off those pounds via a good diet and proper exercise.
- Family history. If your parents or grandparents have diabetes and a history of heart disease, chances are those conditions are embedded in your genes. There is no going around that, except to stay vigilant and healthy. Be wary of symptoms of heart disease and avoid unhealthy habits.
A happy and healthy heart ain’t sweet
Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. Manage your blood sugar levels by leading a healthy lifestyle. Eat right, exercise regularly, sleep well, and avoid vices such as smoking and too much drinking.
These choices will reduce your risk of contracting diabetes, which, in turn, will lower your susceptibility to heart disease—that’s shooting two birds with one stone. And that stone happens to be your unwavering commitment to health and fitness.
To be doubly safe, take ForYourSweetheart.ph’s Heart Disease Risk Checklist to find out if you’re at risk of cardiovascular disease through simple yes-no questions. Remember, when it comes to health, you cannot afford to be complacent.
Last medically reviewed on April 5, 2021