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Diabetes and Heart Health - Why People with Diabetes Need to See a Cardiologist

Diabetes and Heart Health - Why People with Diabetes Need to See a Cardiologist

  By: Editors at DiabetesIQ  |  Published: April 08, 2021   
Published: April 08, 2021   

© Mark Adams | Dreamstime.com


Heart disease and diabetes often go hand-in-hand. People who live with type I and type II diabetes are at a higher risk for heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. Other vascular problems may be caused by diabetes, including poor circulation of the legs and feet. These are the main reasons people with diabetes need to see a cardiologist regularly.

 


What causes heart disease in people with diabetes?

People who have diabetes often experience changes in their blood vessels, which can later lead to cardiovascular disease. The vessels' linings may become thicker, which makes it difficult for blood to flow as it should. As a result, a number of heart problems can occur.

Besides, blood vessels elsewhere in the body can also suffer damage, leading to kidney problems, eye problems, and poor circulation to the legs and feet.

People with diabetes are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease because many of them have one or more conditions that contribute to this risk. These include the following:

 

High blood pressure — hypertension has long been recognized as one of the most common risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Diabetes and hypertension is a common combination, which means that cardiovascular disease risk typically doubles in people with diabetes.

 

Obesity — another significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, obesity has also been strongly associated with insulin resistance, which is why it is a common occurrence in people with diabetes.

 

Abnormal cholesterol and high triglycerides — people with diabetes often have high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which are both linked to cardiovascular disease.

 


What are the main heart issues caused by diabetes?

Diabetes can cause multiple complications involving the heart, which is why it's important to see a cardiologist on a regular basis if you are living with type I or type II diabetes. Here are the most common heart complications caused by diabetes:

 

Heart disease

People with diabetes are more at risk for cardiovascular disease, but even though most people have heard this term before, not everyone understands exactly what it means. Heart disease develops when the coronary arteries that supply your heart become damaged or clogged, reducing or entirely blocking blood flow to the heart. It can result in chest pain, heart attack, or even sudden death.

 

Heart failure

Heart failure happens when the heart fails to pump blood as it should. While there are many reasons that may cause heart failure, blocked arteries which are common in people with diabetes, is one of the most frequent culprits.

 

Stroke

A stroke happens when the blood flow to your brain becomes blocked. Strokes typically happen because of blockages within the arteries or blood clots.

 

Peripheral arterial disease

This is a condition that consists of blockages in the arteries that occur in the legs and feet and is a common occurrence in people who have lived with diabetes for prolonged periods of time. If you have diabetes, it is important to keep an eye on the warning signs of heart problems. You should seek immediate medical attention if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:

 

  • Chest discomfort when you exercise or walk
      
  • Chest pain along with shortness of breath and fatigue
      
  • Resting heart rate faster than 100 bpm
      
  • Erectile dysfunction if you're a young man

 


Why should you see a cardiologist regularly if you have diabetes?

Making regular visits to your cardiologist will help your doctor understand your overall risk for heart disease as a person living with diabetes. That will also allow your doctor to diagnose any possible issues and take proper measures early, which is vital when it comes to heart health. Moreover, your cardiologist may recommend or conduct certain tests to check your heart, which may include one or more of the following:

 

  • An echocardiogram (echo) – a test that examines how thick your heart's muscle is and how well your heart pumps blood through your system.
      
     
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) – the purpose of which is to measure your heart's electrical activity. Irregularities in an electrocardiogram will tell your cardiologist more about your heart health so they can prescribe you a necessary treatment.
      
  • A cardiac stress test or an exercise stress test – it is often conducted by cardiologists to check how well your heart functions when working harder than usual.

 

 

Bottom Line

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 68% of people with diabetes over the age of 65 die from some sort of heart disease. In fact, heart diseases are the most common causes of death in people with diabetes, which means that they need to pay attention to more than just blood sugar levels. That is why to manage their condition people with diabetes have visits a cardiologist regularly.


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