Your heart and circulatory system are two of the areas affected by your diabetes. Controlling the diabetes is critical to reducing your risk of a heart attack and stroke. Your primary physician will be concerned with how well your diabetes is being controlled while your heart doctors will monitor the impact on your heart and circulation. Here is how this disease impacts those areas of your health and what you can do to minimize the risk of serious heart and circulation issues.
How Diabetes Directly Affects Your Heart and Blood Vessels
Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels lead to deposits of fats on the blood vessel walls. The fat solidifies and restricts the blood flow through those vessels. This is called atherosclerosis and can eventually cause a blood vessel to become completely blocked.
Should the blood flow become blocked in one of the vessels feeding your heart, the coronary arteries, the heart becomes starved of oxygen and you'll have a heart attack. If one of the blood vessels in your brain becomes blocked, blood flow is cut off to that portion of the brain and you'll have a stroke. The severity of the heart attack or stroke depends on how little blood is getting to the heart and brain.
Diabetes-Related Health Issues
Your diabetes causes other health issues which indirectly impact your heart and circulation.
High Blood Pressure - People with diabetes often experience hypertension. High blood pressure causes the heart to work harder which requires more blood and oxygen to be delivered to the heart muscle. Should the atherosclerosis create a partial block in the coronary arteries, you won't get enough blood to the heart and may suffer a heart attack.
High Cholesterol Levels - Diabetes reduces the production of the good cholesterol which allows a buildup of the bad cholesterol in your blood. The bad cholesterol allows fat to be deposited on the blood vessel walls, causing a restriction to the blood flow. Again, you're at risk of a heart attack or stroke should blood vessels in those areas become blocked.
Insulin Resistance - People with diabetes become resistant to the affects of insulin in their bloodstream. The body creates more insulin as a response to this resistance. High insulin levels in the blood also cause fat deposits to accumulate on the walls of the blood vessels.
Minimizing Your Risk of Heart and Circulation Problems
Controlling your diabetes and its side effects is critical to preventing a heart attack or stroke. Keeping your diabetes in check with any medication prescribed by your doctor is important, as are the following preventative measures:
Diet changes - A diet low in sugar and carbohydrates (which become sugar in your body) keeps the glucose levels low and makes controlling the diabetes easier. A low cholesterol diet reduces the amount of fat that may end up on the blood vessel walls.
Losing weight - A lean body is less stress on the heart. The more weight you put on, the harder your heart must work, putting you at risk for diabetic heart disease.
Maintain a lower blood pressure - A diet lower in sodium will help control high blood pressure. If diet and exercise do not keep your blood pressure at a normal level, a heart doctor, such as Cardiology Associates Of Schenectady PC, will give you medications to help maintain it.