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Are Heart Disease And Diabetes Related?

Heart disease and diabetes are two co-morbidities that go hand in hand with each other. Diabetes is a contributing factor to heart disease and heart attacks.

If you have diabetes, you are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than someone who doesn't have diabetes—and at a younger age. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have heart disease.

diabetes testing strips and other related items on desktop

Here is what happens to the cardiovascular system when a person is diabetic:

The increased blood sugar from type 2 diabetes (brought about by either insulin resistance or an unhealthy diet) causes inflammation. It also causes thick, viscous blood more prone to clotting.

Inflammation then causes:

  • Inflamed blood vessels.

  • Inflamed blood vessels are repaired by cholesterol, (which is not the bad guy-inflammation is!)

  • Eventually a buildup of plaque occurs. Sometimes the plaque becomes unstable, especially in a newer formation.

  • When the plaque breaks off, the body forms a clot.

  • The clot blocks blood flow (containing oxygen and nutrients) to the heart, starving it of nutrients.

  • The blockage causes release of troponins (the crying tears of the heart in pain). Troponins are trended in the hospital, as the labs may show a heart attack earlier than an EKG, when the EKG tracing has not changed yet.

  • If the blockage is not cleared, and the heart continues to be taxed, the person may have a heart attack.

If on top of this, a person also has hypertension, the blocked arteries offer even less of an opening for blood flow, causing more problems for the heart-pressure of fluid backup, effort in pumping against the pressure which can lead to heart failure. 

Imagine doing a pushup every second all day every day until you die. Well, that is what the heart is doing, over 84,000 times a day! It is our job to keep it easy for the heart, so it has the energy and stamina to take us to 100 years, healthfully!

The silent heart attack of diabetes

Diabetics may not even realize they are having a heart attack because the nerves have been damaged and they may not have the warning feeling of pain. This is sometimes termed cardiac autonomic dysfunction or autonomic neuropathy. The nerves of the autonomic nervous systems can be severely damaged. The result is that people will not necessarily feel chest pain, and this is one way that a silent heart attack is thought to be connected to diabetes.

Silent heart attacks are dangerous precisely because they often occur undetected. Some studies have found that people who have experienced a silent heart attack are at greater risk of death than those who have a heart attack with recognized symptoms. “Compared to those without a heart attack, those who have had a silent heart attack have a three-fold greater likelihood of dying from heart disease in the future,” says Dr. Nathan Wong, director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program at the University of California, Irvine.

While a person may not be able to “feel” autonomic neuropathy, there are ways to detect it that don’t involve formal medical tests. Orthostatic hypotension—a drop in blood pressure that occurs when a person sits or stands up suddenly—is one indicator. If you’ve noticed that you feel lightheaded or dizzy after sitting or standing, and especially if this is a new symptom for you, that’s worth mentioning to your doctor. Erectile dysfunction can also be a sign of autonomic neuropathy, or clogged arteries, because the smaller microvascular becomes blocked, too, not just the coronary arteries. So too is gastroparesis, or abnormally slow stomach-emptying. This can leave you feeling stuffed even hours after a meal. It can also cause abdominal pain, heartburn, bloating, or nausea. Again, if you’ve noticed any of these symptoms crop up suddenly, tell your doctor.

Diabetes can damage blood vessels and make the heart muscle stiffer. This eventually leads to problems with fluid retention and heart failure. People with diabetes are also more likely to have heart failure. Heart failure is a serious condition, but it doesn’t mean the heart has stopped beating; it means your heart can’t pump blood well. This can lead to swelling in your legs and fluid building up in your lungs, making it hard to breathe. Heart failure tends to get worse over time, but early diagnosis and treatment can help relieve symptoms and stop or delay the condition getting worse.

People with diabetes also have higher risk of premature, accelerated coronary artery disease. This means that compared to those patients who do not have diabetes, the walls of the arteries have more fatty deposits and begin to harden earlier and without many warnings, making treatment difficult and causing the condition to progress faster. Subsequently, people with diabetes have an increased risk of recurrent heart attacks and scarring of the heart muscle, which increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.

After a heart attack, the heart muscle does not heal as well as in people who have diabetes. 

Due to nerve damage caused by diabetes, patients may not feel the chest pain or other types of chest discomfort that may signal something is wrong with the heart, so heart disease may not be detected until it is advanced and fewer treatment options are available. 

Diabetes is treatable, but even when glucose levels are under control it greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. That's because people with diabetes, particularly Type 2 diabetes, may have the following conditions that contribute to their risk for developing CVD.

High blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown a link between high blood pressure and insulin resistance. When patients have both HBP and diabetes, which is a common combination, their risk for CVD increases even more.

Abnormal cholesterol  and triglycerides

Patients with diabetes often have unhealthy cholesterol levels including high LDL ("bad") cholesterol, low HDL ("good") cholesterol, and high triglycerides. This often occurs in patients with premature coronary heart disease. It's also characteristic of a lipid disorder associated with insulin resistance called atherogenic dyslipidemia, or diabetic dyslipidemia in patients with diabetes. Learn more about cholesterol abnormalities as they relate to diabetes. Download Type 2 Diabetes and Cholesterol (PDF).


Obesity is a major risk factor for CVD and has been strongly associated with insulin resistance. Weight loss can improve cardiovascular risk, decrease insulin concentration and increase insulin sensitivity. Obesity and insulin resistance also have been associated with other risk factors, including high blood pressure.

Lack of physical activity

Physical inactivity is another modifiable risk factor for insulin resistance and CVD. Exercising and losing weight can prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes, reduce blood pressure and help reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. Any type of moderate-to vigorous physical activity is beneficial, such as sports, house work, gardening or work-related physical activity.

For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week (or a combination of the two), plus moderate-to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week. Read the article: Get Motivated to Get Moving.

Poorly controlled blood sugar (too high)

Diabetes can cause blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels. Medications may be needed to manage your blood sugar.


Whether or not they have diabetes, smoking puts people at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Learn how to kick the habit.

People with insulin resistance or diabetes and one or more of these risk factors are at even greater risk of heart disease or stroke. People with diabetes may avoid or delay the development of heart and blood vessel disease by managing their risk factors. Your health care team will do periodic testing to assess whether you have developed any of these risk factors associated with CVD.

What is the solution here?

  • Eat a diet that is as close to the source as possible. If it was made in a plant, (especially empty carbs) avoid it, if it IS a plant, that is great!

  • Avoid foods with added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. 

  • Monitor your sugar intake-it is hidden in many foods.

  • Read labels on your food.

  • Ensure you are hydrating adequately at least 8 glasses of water a day to help with blood flow. (Coffee does not qualify as water!) 

  • Ensure you are feeding your body healthy nutrition.

  • Move your body every day-even walking is great for moving the blood through the cardiovascular system!

  • Check in with your doctor if you are ill at ease with how you are feeling.

Positive lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising more, following a healthier diet and controlling blood pressure, all can contribute to better diabetes control and heart health. Studies have shown that by achieving good control of these cardiovascular risk factors, people not only significantly improve quality of life, but most importantly prolong their lives by an average of eight years.

Monitoring the situation

The recent development of cardiac imaging techniques, such as advanced echocardiography, cardiac CT and cardiac MRI, brings hope that medical professionals will be able to detect diabetic heart disease earlier and prevent its serious consequences. Thanks to those innovative imaging techniques, it's understood that heart disease in people with diabetes progresses rapidly if not managed with well-established preventive treatments.

Ongoing research is using advanced medical imaging to study why the hearts of people with diabetes suffer more extensive injury after heart attacks and why those with diabetes develop heart failure more often than people with normal glucose control. As everyone responds to medication differently, work is underway at Mayo Clinic to review large sets of data and artificial intelligence to identify people with diabetes who may respond better to certain treatments. The goal is to offer people with diabetes personalized therapeutic plans to manage their heart health risk.

Some questions to reflect on:

  • Do you want to get off medications, because you feel sick on them? 

  • Do healthy people need meds? 

  • Is your body really deficient in statins and beta blockers so you have to supplement with all kinds of drugs, including those for side effects when they come? 

  • Do you want to reverse your heart disease? 

  • Are you scared that you could get sicker or it could happen again? 

  • Do you want to optimize your overall health? 

  • Do you want to feel energetic and vibrant - maybe for the first time in years? 

  • Do you feel you are lacking in and need knowledge, support, and guidance in order to heal and get healthy? 

  • Are you ready to take massive action to achieve your goals, or do you want something “easy?” 

  • Do you want help and guidance or are you just kicking tires? 


Your next step to your heart health:

Join the Heart Health Accelerator Cardiac Wellness Program!

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My own parents both died of heart attacks before I became a cardiac ICU nurse, and I thought I would learn so much about heart health and how to protect myself. Instead I learned that the medical system helps us in an emergency, but after that, it leaves us to figure things out on our own, many times with further tragedy.  The Heart Health Accelerator Cardiac Wellness Program I created is the result of thousands of hours of research, certifications, program content development, beta testing clients, and achieving endorsement from cardiologists, and holistic doctors as well. Here you will find information, and be guided in establishing new habits that when combined, have compounding positive results, as seen in your lab work and in how you feel! You will learn how stress impacts your heart, and your gut and the ability to absorb nutrition and improve your immune system. You will learn what you can do to increase circulation, prevent diabetes, detoxify, use tactical strategy in your nourishment, and also incorporate Eastern healing modalities. This is where I pick you up-where the medical system dropped you off. You can heal wholistically-bringing your body to wellness.

Review the program and join others like yourself at

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