Diabetic Heart Disease, the Number One Killer

Diabetic heart disease causes one-third of all deaths in the United States. The good news is that the same things you do to control and prevent type 2 diabetes dramatically reduce your risk of heart disease.

Because of your higher risk as a diabetic, you need to know the causes for heart disease, how to recognize a heart attack and how to prevent them.

Heart Disease Can Sneak Up On You

Do you know how to recognize heart disease? The first symptoms you notice may come too late.

If you are overweight, do not exercise much, and have bad habits like smoking and eating foods that contain AGEs, your risks for heart disease grow as you get older.

These habits lead to high blood pressure, high triglycerides and cholesterol, obesity and insulin resistance.

This list makes the connection between heart problems and type 2 diabetes clear, because the same risk factors apply to both.

A visit to your doctor is the best thing you can do to catch heart disease early. Blood tests will warn you of high cholesterol, high blood sugar and kidney problems.

Get your blood pressure and heart rate checked, and you can begin to treat the symptoms and change your lifestyle before heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes steal your health.

Try the power of lemons for fighting diabetes.

Heart Failure, Heart Attack or Stroke?

Cardiovascular disease covers all the things that can go wrong in diabetic heart disease.

When your heart cannot pump blood efficiently because of chronic conditions like diabetes, or damage from illness or birth defect, heart failure is the result.

Fluid builds up in your lungs, causing pulmonary edema. Feet, ankles and legs swell from fluid buildup, and your kidneys become less efficient.

But a heart attack is the result of blocked arteries. When one of the arteries that feed your heart muscle gets blocked by plaque buildup and blood clots, the muscle around that artery dies.

Heart muscle damage causes temporary changes in your blood. If doctors can do blood tests immediately after a heart attack, the diagnosis is quick. You will get treatment right away, and this could save your life.

If the heart attack was too long ago there are other tests doctors will need to do.

Any dead heart muscle or blockage shows up on heart catheterization. Also an EKG will point to areas of damage.

A stroke from heart disease is caused when artery plaques lead to calcium buildup and blood clots. If the clot breaks loose and travels to your brain it can block the blood flow, killing brain cells.

Three out of four strokes are caused this way, and the severity depends on blood clot size and where it blocked the artery.

Symptoms of Heart Failure

You can learn how to recognize all the kinds of diabetic heart disease. Start with heart failure.

All of its symptoms come from a weakened heart and slower blood flow.

Because fluid is not getting out of your lungs you feel breathless, and you may have a persistent cough and wheezing.

Your feet, ankles and legs swell from edema. Your kidneys do not work well because of the slower blood flow.

Your failing heart sends blood away from your muscles to your heart and brain, so you feel tired and fatigued all the time. Digestion slows down too, leading to nausea and lack of appetite.

Electrolytes like sodium and potassium go out of balance, causing memory loss and confusion.

Your heart rate is high, and you feel your heart race and throb because the heart muscle is weak.

Symptoms of Stroke

A stroke can start as a blinding headache with nausea and vomiting, or it may knock you out. You may wake up in the hospital with paralysis, memory loss or some other form of brain damage.

A small stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack) shows up as temporary confusion, loss of eyesight, or simply weakness for a few minutes.

The American Stroke Association uses this mnemonic to help you. It is FAST - Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911.

Symptoms of Heart Attack

The number one symptom of a heart attack is crushing chest discomfort. But it can also cause pain in one or both arms, your back or neck, your jaws or even your stomach.

You may find it hard to breathe, you tire easily or you break into a cold sweat.

If it gets worse or it goes away and comes back, call 911 and go to the hospital.

But you also need to be aware of something called a silent heart attack. These happen to women more than men, and the symptoms can be missed.

People who have silent heart attacks often say they thought it was the flu. Most diabetic women do not feel the crushing pain of sudden heart attack.

Instead they may have shortness of breath, upper back band-like pressure, feeling dizzy and lightheaded, nausea and vomiting, and fainting.

What should you do if this happens to you? Pay attention to symptoms that are hard to pin down but linger, like tiring easily and getting out of breath too fast.

Silent heart attacks are twice as common as recognized heart attacks. So the best thing you can do is take an aspirin and call 911 or go to an emergency room.

The criteria? If you need to take an aspirin for it, you need to go to the ER. Silent heart attacks are hard to detect, so do not waste a moment worrying about being wrong.

The only way to find out is to go to the ER, get blood tests and EKG, and rule it out.

Diabetic heart disease will kill six out of ten adults with diabetes. Take the symptoms seriously.

An Ounce of Prevention

The American Heart Association says that type 2 diabetes is one of the six major controllable risk factors for heart disease.

These six risk factors can be treated and reversed: high blood pressure, high triglycerides and cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity, poorly controlled blood sugar and smoking.

Chronic inflammation is probably the underlying cause of both type 2 diabetes and diabetic heart disease, so do the things that lower inflammation.

If you smoke, quit. Those who do this lower their risk for diabetic heart disease by half in just one year.

Do not eat foods like AGEs and SoFAS (high sugar and bad fats) that worsen diabetes and other inflammatory diseases.

Take care of yourself. Make regular doctor’s appointments to get blood tests and checkups.

Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. This will delay and even prevent diabetic heart disease. It also reduces insulin resistance, the root of type 2 diabetes.

The beauty of exercise and eating healthy is that those two things will treat and reverse all six of the controllable risk factors for diabetic heart disease.

Benjamin Franklin said it best. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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