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The Connection Between Diabetes and Heart Attacks

Nearly 28 million Americans live with type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. About 8 million of these cases are undiagnosed. Even worse, experts estimate diagnosed cases will continue to increase by nearly 1.4 million each year. Healthy professionals are very concerned about this steady rise in diabetes cases. Diabetes, especially type 2, can lead to a number of related health problems, including heart disease, stroke and an increased risk of heart attack. Typically, the development of type 2 diabetes can be triggered by less-than-healthy lifestyle choices, but family history and genetics are also factors. Knowing how type 2 diabetes can develop, how to monitor it and how it relates to heart health are good first steps toward prevention and management. Since November is American Diabetes Month, it's the perfect time to educate yourself.


Diabetes forms when the pancreas is unable to produce the right amount of insulin, or when the body’s cells use insulin incorrectly. This affects the body’s ability to absorb an energy called glucose. Glucose is the sugar found in blood and is a basic fuel that powers the body. As food is digested, glucose from the food begins to fuel the body’s cells. Insulin hormones must be present for the glucose to be absorbed correctly. The misuse of insulin by the cells leads to a depletion of cell energy and a spike of glucose. When too much unabsorbed glucose is in the blood, it can cause health problems. Untreated diabetes can lead to nerve damage, heart health complications and stroke. In some cases, loss of vision and even amputation can occur. There are two forms of diabetes that differ in development and management.
  • Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes typically develops in youth and is a result of the body’s immune system attacking insulin-making cells. Those with type 1 need to treat their diabetes with injections of insulin, medications, mindful dieting and the monitoring of blood pressure.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes, can develop at any age and can be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle and diet, but genetics can also be a major cause. Type 2 develops when the body starts to resist insulin, which occurs when there isn’t enough insulin to keep up with the amount of glucose present in the body. The pancreas will make enough insulin to keep up with demand initially but will not be able to keep up with spikes in blood sugar over time. Type 2 is typically treated with medication, healthy diet, exercise and the monitoring of cholesterol and blood pressure.

Diabetes and Heart Health

Diabetics are more likely to develop heart disease or suffer from a stroke than individuals without the disease, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Those with diabetes also tend to develop heart disease at a younger age. The severity of heart attack and stroke also increases in individuals with diabetes. The relationship between diabetes and heart health can be explained by a few factors. One major reason for the connection is the amount of glucose present in the blood can begin to clog and harden in the body’s blood vessels. Over time, this clogging can narrow blood passages and lead to heart attack, heart disease and stroke. Additionally, many of the underlying causes of type 2 diabetes are also risk factors for developing heart disease and experiencing a heart attack. Obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are all common causes of both poor heart health and type 2 diabetes.

Heart Disease and Diabetes Prevention

A diet high in fiber, low in cholesterol and low in trans and saturated fats may also aid the prevention of diabetes. Fiber, which can be found in whole grains, beans and many fruits and vegetables, may also lower cholesterol levels. Quitting smoking, although sometimes difficult, can reduce the risk for heart disease and heart attack substantiality. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, some studies have shown quitting smoking reduces the risk of heart attack by nearly 50 percent. Taking aspirin or other medications daily may also reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, but talk to your doctor before adding medicine to your routine. Consult with your physician about additional preventive regimens you can use to protect against heart disease and diabetes.

INTEGRIS Diabetes Education Program 

The INTEGRIS Diabetes Education Program prioritizes education and awareness as top combatants of type 2 diabetes. The program offers a wide variety of educational resources about diabetes management options, prevention, and causes.  From videos to articles, the program provides a strong basis to begin diabetes prevention or management. Learning to live with diabetes can be a major life adjustment, see how we can help!

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