Heart Disease, Stroke – Diabetes and prediabetes

Both diabetes and prediabetes increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

You can lower your risks by managing your blood glucose (also called blood sugar), blood pressure and blood cholesterol near to or at the recommended target numbers.

Your GP or diabetes expert can give you the information you need about the levels.

(For more information about target numbers for people with diabetes, see “How will I know whether I have heart disease?”)

Reaching your target can help prevent the narrowing or blockage of blood vessels in your legs, a condition called peripheral arterial disease.

You can reach healthy targets by:

  • choosing foods more wisely
  • being more physically active
  • take medications if needed

If you have already had a heart attack or a stroke, taking care of yourself will help prevent future health problems.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism, the process our bodies use   to gain the energy needed by our bodies from food.

Most food we eat is broken down into glucose, a form of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy.

After digestion,  glucose goes to cells throughout the body where it is used to produce energy.

However, a hormone called insulin must be present as it allows glucose to enter the cells.  Insulin is produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach.

People who do not suffer from diabetes because their  pancreas produces the right amount of insulin.  Diabetes develops when the pancreas does not make enough insulin

  • or cells in muscles, liver and fat are not using insulin properly,
  • or both.

As a result, glucose in the blood increases while your cells are starved of energy.

In time, high blood glucose levels can damage nerves and blood vessels, leading to complications like heart disease and stroke, a leading cause of death among people with diabetes.

Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to other health problems like vision loss, kidney failure and amputation, particularly of the feet.

What is prediabetes?

Prediabetes is when your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diabetes.

Many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. In addition, they are at risk for heart disease and stroke.

With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, people with prediabetes can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes and lower their risk of heart disease and stroke too.

What is the connection between diabetes, heart disease, and stroke?

If you have diabetes, you are twice or more likely, as someone who does not have diabetes, to have heart disease or a stroke.

People with diabetes also:

  • mostly develop heart disease or have strokes at a younger age than others.
  • and those with diabetes who have had a heart attack run a higher  risk of having a second.
  • Also heart attacks in diabetics are more serious and more likely to result in death.

High blood glucose levels over time can lead to increased deposits of fatty materials inside blood vessel walls. These deposits can affect blood flow, increasing clogging and the hardening of blood vessels (atherosclerosis).

Can I prevent or delay heart disease and stroke?

If you are at high risk of heart disease and stroke, you can help your heart and blood vessels to be healthier.

You need to take the following steps:

  • Use a “heart-healthy diet.” Meet with a registered dietitian and plan a diet that meets the goals needed
  • If you smoke, quit. Ask your doctor to help you quit smoking.
  • Ask your doctorabout taking aspirin. Studies show that taking a low dose of aspirin every day can help reduce risks of heart disease and stroke. Aspirin is not always safe for everyone. Your doctor will  tell you if taking aspirin is right for you and exactly how much to take.
  • Get prompt treatment for transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). Early treatment for TIAs, sometimes called mini-strokes, may help prevent or delay a future stroke. Signs of a TIA are sudden weakness, loss of balance, numbness, confusion, blindness in one or both eyes, double vision, difficulty speaking, or a severe headache.

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