The connection between diabetes and heart disease is that a person with diabetes is twice as likely to suffer from heart disease. Untreated diabetes, especially type 2, has a degenerative effect on heart function. Heart disease develops differently between diabetic men and women. Treating both diabetes and heart disease may require lifestyle changes, medication and even surgery.
Though diabetes and heart disease do not always present together in one patient, poor diet can create both simultaneously. By eating a high sugar/high fat diet, an overweight or obese individual creates a situation where damage can occur to both the pancreas and heart. Type 2 diabetes develops while the arteries becomes clogged with cholesterol plaque. Blood sugar rises at the onset of diabetes, causing an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure puts even more strain on an already clogged and weakened cardiovascular system.
As the progression of diabetes and heart disease are closely tied together, a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes usually prompts a doctor to run tests to gauge cardiovascular health. If an initial blood test confirms that the patient is at risk for heart disease, the doctor refers the patient to a cardiologist for further examination and treatment.
Heart disease in individuals with diabetes presents differently in men and women. In women, the majority of damage generally occurs in the veins and arteries surrounding the heart. For men, the heart itself is affected more. Despite this difference, the progression of heart disease takes a similar amount of time in both men and women.
Treating both diabetes and heart disease begins with a healthier lifestyle. Losing weight through diet and exercise lowers blood pressure, taking tremendous strain off the heart. A lower weight also means that the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood to all parts of the body. Along with regular glucose testing and proper medication, sustained diet and exercise can usually halt further bodily harm caused by diabetes.
There are two factors doctors must consider before prescribing treatment for the heart disease that commonly develops alongside diabetes: the type of heart disease and its progression. If surgery is not required, a doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication or simply tell the patient to take a daily dose of aspirin. In cases where heart disease has caused more damage or severely narrowed arteries and veins, surgery such as angioplasty or insertion of stints will create a wider passage for blood flow.