Diabetic heart disease refers to heart disease that develops in people who have diabetes. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition characterised by high levels of sugar in the blood.
Diabetes causes injury to the arteries, making them more susceptible to damage from hypertension and atherosclerosis. People with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people without diabetes. In diabetics, the linings of the blood vessels may become thicker, making it difficult for blood to pass through the vessels.
Cardiovascular disease is also the leading cause of early death among people with diabetes (65%).
Smoking, alcohol, unhealthy diet, genetics and a sedentary lifestyle are among the major risk factors of developing diabetes.
Although it is more common in the elderly, serious cardiovascular disease may develop in people with diabetes who are even younger than 30. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at greater risk of developing heart disease. Diabetics are disadvantaged by lower success rate in some heart disease treatments, such as coronary artery bypass grafting and angioplasty.
Since diabetes affects the nerves, some people with diabetes suffer from “silent” heart attacks, or without experiencing any pain. These silent heart attacks are not commonly diagnosed during a routine medical check-up.
When a person already suffered from a silent heart attack, he has a higher risk of having another more serious heart attack. Other symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, discomfort or pain in the back, arms, neck or stomach, lightheadedness, sweating, nausea, anxiety, and extreme weakness.
Just like any other heart disease, diabetic heart disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, medical and family histories, a physical examination and several tests.
No single test can diagnose diabetic heart disease, so your doctor may recommend some of the following tests: blood tests, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiography, stress test and urinalysis.
Diabetic heart disease can be controlled by making some necessary lifestyle changes and taking prescribed medications. Exercise and other physical activities can lower your blood pressure, help control your weight and blood sugar level, and reduce stress. Keeping your blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol within the recommended level can help prevent blockage of the blood vessels in your arteries.
To help prevent stroke or heart failure, diabetics are advised to strictly follow their treatment plan. A diet that is low in sodium and cholesterol is highly recommended.
A diet of lean meat, low-fat milk, poultry, fish and fruits is recommended. Smoking is one of the major risk factors associated with heart attack and stroke so smokers should quit the habit. Also limit the consumption of alcohol.