Understanding How Diabetes Affects Your Cardiovascular Health

Understanding How Diabetes Affects Your Cardiovascular Health

February is American Heart Month, and in honor of that, Dr. Rogers Walker and the team here at Walker Family Care in Little River, South Carolina, want to highlight the connection between diabetes and cardiovascular health. 

Here’s what you need to know about how diabetes affects your heart.

Understanding the diabetes-heart connection

If you have diabetes, you’re two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Not only are you more at risk for developing cardiovascular disease, but you also have a higher risk of developing heart-related complications, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Elevated sugar impacts your blood vessels

The cascade of problems starts with elevated blood sugar levels. That’s because high levels of blood sugar can wreak havoc on your blood vessels.  

When the blood sugar damages your vessels, they become less elastic, which causes them to narrow and reduce blood flow. This damage, known as endothelial dysfunction, compromises your arteries' ability to regulate blood flow and increases the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Increased risk of atherosclerosis 

Atherosclerosis occurs when fatty deposits, including cholesterol and plaque, accumulate on the inner walls of your arteries. For individuals with diabetes, this process tends to accelerate and lead to narrowed and hardened arteries. This, in turn, raises the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Note: Cholesterol can also complicate matters here. Diabetes can alter the balance of cholesterol levels in your blood and contribute to higher levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and lower levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This imbalance contributes to the progression of atherosclerosis.

Narrowed blood vessels can lead to hypertension 

The narrowed blood vessels can then increase your risk of hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart disease. About 74% of people with diabetes also have hypertension. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to safely lower your levels either through lifestyle modifications, medication, or a combination of the two.

The effect of diabetes on your heart muscle

Your blood vessels aren’t the only part of your cardiovascular system that are impacted. Your heart muscle is also affected. Diabetes can affect the structure and function of the heart muscle. Diabetic cardiomyopathy, characterized by changes in your heart's size and efficiency, can lead to heart failure over time. 

Inflammation triggers clot formation 

Chronic inflammation is a common feature in both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Inflammation in your blood vessels can trigger clot formation and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

How to support your heart when you have diabetes

Whether you have diabetes or not, it's important to adopt heart-friendly lifestyle habits, but it’s even more critical when you have diabetes. Part of managing diabetes (and supporting your heart health) includes:

Here at  Walker Family Care, our team has everything you need to manage diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol right here in Little River, South Carolina. Dr. Walker can order the appropriate tests to monitor your blood sugar, recommend the right lifestyle changes for you, and if needed, prescribe the medications that can help you manage diabetes and its complications.

This February, commit to adopting one heart-friendly habit. Whether that’s going for an extra walk or eating more heart-friendly foods, remember that any step (no matter how small) in the right direction can positively impact your heart. 

Questions? You can reach us at 843-280-8333. You can also schedule your next appointment by clicking here.

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