What are Cardiovascular Diseases?
Cardiovascular diseases are complications related to the heart and blood vessel. You might have heard of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, peripheral vascular disease, rheumatic heart condition, congenital heart disorders, deep vein thrombosis or even pulmonary embolism.
What processes make diabetics prone to heart disease?
The connection between diabetes and heart disease starts with the effects of poorly controlled diabetes; high blood sugar because. Over time, high blood sugar can harm blood vessels in different ways.
First, high blood sugar damages the tissues that line the inner walls of the arteries, a process that encourages the buildup of cholesterol rich plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis). The plaque not only narrows the blood vessels limiting blood supply to different body parts, but also has a tendency of breaking off inside the blood vessels, potentially triggering a heart attack through blocking the blood vessel directly or formation of a blood clot.
High sugar levels also cause chronic inflammation in the blood vessels. This increases production of free radicals and highly reactive molecules, and reduce the availability of antioxidants like nitric oxide. This makes the arteries stiff, hard and unable to contract and relax freely, and worsens the problem of blood flow to essential organs.
People living with diabetes are also more likely to develop conditions that contribute to the development of heart disease: hypertension, abnormal cholesterol levels, obesity, and engaging in minimal exercise or physical activity.
Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Diabetes
Diabetic patients, especially those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, are very susceptible to cardiovascular diseases. Risk factors that expose diabetics to cardiovascular diseases include smoking, dyslipidemia, hypertension, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle. People living with diabetes who are exposed to one or more of the risk factors face a higher risk of contracting heart disease or stroke. A cardiovascular disease can also set before the signs of diabetes appear.
Which symptoms indicate a potential of cardiovascular disease development in diabetes patients?
- Chest pains; Chest tightness; chest pressure; chest discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Faint feeling
- Excessive and unexplained sweating
- Pain, numbness, weakness, or cold sensation in the legs or arms if the blood vessels in those parts of the body are narrowed
- Slow heartbeat
- Racing heartbeat
It is important to watch out for cardiovascular symptoms and discuss concerns with your doctor.
Management of Diabetic Cardiovascular Diseases
Management of the risk factors is important if heart and vascular diseases are to be kept at bay. Controlling hypertension, lipids, and blood glucose minimises the risk of cardiovascular complications. Lifestyle interventions are very effective against cardiovascular risk factors and involve weight management, healthy food choices, and engagement in physical activities. On the other hand, pharmacological interventions characterised by use of antihypertensive drugs, lipid suppressing agents, and antiplatelet therapy for atherosclerosis are equally beneficial. Surgical processes to restore the blood vessels are applicable when the risk of developing cardiovascular disease appears to be high.
Consuming a healthy diet is critical for preventing and managing cardiovascular disease in diabetes. Those who adhere to a healthy diet are able to achieve glycemic control, manage the body weight, and attain blood pressure and lipid goals.
A typical healthy diet should be of the appropriate calorie range and rich in
- dietary fibre (which lowers the level of total and LDL cholesterol),
- a variety of vegetables from all the subgroups – dark green, red, orange, and more of non-starchy than starchy vegetables
- moderate amounts of whole grains
- Fat free or low fat dairy and dairy products like milk, yoghurt and fortified soy beverages
- A variety of protein foods including seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs,legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products
And restricted amounts of sodium, alcohol, trans fats and saturated fats.
Physical activity reduces oxidative stress and boosts the body’s antioxidant defence system. The exercises can be either aerobic or anaerobic. While aerobic exercises are of low to moderate intensity, anaerobic exercises are of high intensity.
Aerobic exercises include activities such as dancing, cycling, swimming, and walking while anaerobic exercises include sprinting and weight lifting. Light activities such as walking alleviate some symptoms associated with peripheral vascular diseases. According to the American Heart Association, prevention of cardiovascular disease requires participation in 30-minute exercises five times per week if the exercise is moderate. However, if the activity is vigorous it should last 25 minutes and be carried out thrice a week. Since every patient is at a different physical state, the physical exercise program should be individualised.
What are the available options for diabetes management and maintenance of a healthy heart?
- Setting clear diabetes control goals and working towards achieving them
- Regularly checking the blood sugar levels
- Lose weight if obese or overweight
- Exercising regularly
- Sticking to healthy food choices
- Quitting smoking
- Adhering to medical prescriptions for Diabetes and any other co-existing condition like hypertension or hypercholesterolemia
- Committing to lifestyle changes for Diabetes and any other co-existing condition like hypertension or hypercholesterolemia