People with type 2 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with and die from heart disease — but that doesn't have to be the case. Here's what you need to know to lower your risk.
One in two people with type 2 diabetes will die of heart disease
If you have type 2 diabetes, you may think you know everything you need to, to manage this chronic disease. However, a recent My Heart Matters survey found one in two Canadians with type 2 diabetes are unaware of its link to heart disease. In fact, people with diabetes may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than people without diabetes.
Doctor Kim Connelly, Cardiologist and Scientist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, warns, "Of the people with type 2 diabetes who develop heart disease and are admitted to the hospital with heart failure, about half will pass away within five years. It's a dangerous problem that can be prevented by better controlling your diabetes." Connelly concurs even one death is too many when, with increased awareness, it may be possible to reduce the risk of developing heart disease in the first place.
How does diabetes contribute to an increased risk of heart disease?
According to Dr. Connelly, diabetes can affect your blood vessels and heart: it can cause the arteries to harden, resulting in a heart attack, or it can directly damage the heart muscle itself leading to heart failure. Type 2 diabetes alone is a serious risk factor for heart disease, which is the most common cause of death in adults with diabetes. "You want to make sure you're doing everything you can to reduce your risk of heart disease when you have diabetes", he says.
Traditionally we treat diabetes by managing blood sugar
Having diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can lead to heart disease. "When you have a diagnosis of diabetes, blood sugar tests typically show that there is too much sugar circulating around the body. Generally, diabetes treatments focus on getting the sugar levels down," Dr. Connelly says. He notes that managing blood sugar can protect people with type 2 diabetes from kidney failure, nerve damage and help prevent possible blindness. "But unfortunately, many drugs used to treat diabetes don't protect against the number one killer of people with type 2 diabetes—heart attack and stroke".
Managing your blood sugar alone isn't enough
While controlling blood sugar is important in managing diabetes, it may not be enough to protect the heart. Thankfully, there are medications that – along with diet and exercise – have been proven to lower the risk of dying from problems related to your heart and blood vessels. It's time to make sure you're managing your risk of heart disease.
If you have type 2 diabetes, the first step is to talk to your doctor about the connection between type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as well as diabetes medication that can help reduce your risk of complications.
TIPS TO MANAGE YOUR HEART DISEASE RISK WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES
- Diet and Exercise
- Learn the Warning Signs – shortness of breath, feeling tired and lethargic, swelling of the ankles
- Speak to Your Doctor
- Find the Right Medication
- Visit My Heart Matters.
Brought to you by an alliance of two of Canada’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies