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Diabetes and your Heart

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Diabetes claims an American life every 3 minutes. That is more than breast cancer and AIDS combined. In the last decade, the number of those living with diabetes has drastically jumped nearly 50 percent, to more than 29 million Americans. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or stroke than adults without diabetes. In honor of American Heart Month, spend a few minutes learning about the close tie between heart disease and diabetes.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, commonly referred to as "diabetes," is a disease in which the body’s blood glucose (sugar) level is too high.

What is Pre-Diabetes?

Up to 79 million Americans over the age of 20 have pre-diabetes.90 percent of these patients are unaware that they are pre-diabetic and 70 percent of them will go on to develop diabetes. Often, pre-diabetes has no signs or symptoms and can only be determined by visiting with your provider. If your health care provider has said you have“pre-diabetes” this means that without making changes to your lifestyle, your body will most likely develop diabetes at some point in the future.

How Diabetes Develops

Almost all of the food you eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, which your body uses for energy. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that is necessary for the body to be able to use this sugar. Insulin’s role is to sugar from the blood into your cells. When your body does not create enough insulin or does not effectively use the insulin it produces, sugar levels rise, build up in the bloodstream and diabetes develops.

Types of Diabetes

There are two primary types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

  • Type 1 diabetes is more severe and occurs when the pancreas produces limited or no insulin. Without insulin, your body is unable to move the glucose it receives from food into the cells to fuel the body. Without the daily injections of insulin, those with type 1 diabetes will not survive.
  • Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body develops “insulin resistance” and cannot properly use the insulin produced. In the past, type 2 diabetes was primarily diagnosed in middle-aged adults. However, today’s adolescents and young adults are developing type 2 diabetes at a distressing rate. The increase in obesity and physical inactivity are both risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Both types could be inherited through genetics. For this reason, a family history of diabetes can significantly increase the possibility of developing the condition. However, both types are also treatable.

Heart Disease and Diabetes

Heart disease and stroke are the number one cause of death for those with type 2 diabetes due to the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poorly controlled blood sugars 
  • Smoking

Remaining Heart Healthy

While people living with diabetes have a higher-than-average risk of heart disease and stroke, there are several steps they can take to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle.

  • Maintain a “heart healthy diet.” Take time to meet with a registered dietitian to plan a diet that meets the right goals.

  • Do not smoke. If you currently smoke, speak with your doctor about ways to help you effectively quit smoking. 

  • Discuss taking aspirin with your doctor. Studies suggest that low doses of aspirin every day may help reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease. Though this is not meant for everyone, deciding which is right for you and how much to take is essential. 
  • If necessary, receive treatment for transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Sometimes called ‘mini-strokes,’ early treatment for TIAs may delay or prevent a stroke in the future. 

Greene County Medical Center wants to ensure you and your loved ones understand the risks associated with diabetes, as well as the steps you can take to manage it safely for a heart healthy future. For further insight or questions regarding diabetes and heart health, reach out to our exceptional staff within Cardiac Services and Diabetes Management at Greene County Medical Center.