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Heart Disease and Diabetes: What to Know About the Link

High blood sugar also takes a toll on your ticker.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition, but the number-one cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes is actually heart disease. Heart disease and diabetes often occur together, and the link between them is high blood sugar.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, the CDC reports heart disease is responsible for one of every four deaths. For this reason, it’s essential for anyone with type 2 diabetes to understand the link between heart disease and diabetes and take proper preventative measures to manage or reverse their diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you probably already know about insulin resistance. Because the body does not use insulin properly, the pancreas tries to compensate by making extra insulin. Over time, it can’t keep up, and the body cannot maintain normal blood glucose levels. (Find out more information about insulin resistance here.)

Those high glucose levels can harden arteries over time. Your arteries need to be spacious and flexible to get proper blood and oxygen circulation throughout the body; tight and rigid arteries force the heart to work harder to pump the blood around. This leads to heart disease.

Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes may follow certain lifestyles that can trigger heart disease. The same diet and habits that lead to type 2 diabetes can also lead to heart disease because of their connection to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And it doesn’t stop there: Those same problems can lead to other conditions, such as erectile dysfunction or stroke.

The good news: Both type 2 diabetes and heart disease can be prevented or managed by lifestyle choices. Lean proteins and heart-healthy meals can help keep cholesterol levels low, and ample research supports eating a vegetarian diet with diabetes. Doctors also recommend patients quit smoking and incorporate more physical activity. (If you’re just getting started with exercise, try this workout for total beginners.)

Tara Narula, MD

This video features Tara Narula, MD. Dr. Narula is a board-certified cardiologist and an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and associate director of the Cardiac Care Unit at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan.

Duration: 0:56. Last Updated On: Nov. 8, 2017, 6:14 p.m.
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