How Diabetes Affects the Heart

Diabetic Heart Disease Risk

Okay, so heart attacks are scary and awful and everyone should fear them. But why should a diabetes patient be more concerned about having "The Big One" than any other Tom, Dick, or Harriet on the street?

Because, compared to the general population, people with type 2 diabetes are two to six times more likely to have a heart attack. Furthermore, heart attacks tend to be fatal more often in diabetes patients. Scientists aren't sure why diabetes seems to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but some intriguing theories are taking shape.

For starters, virtually all patients with type 2 diabetes have developed resistance to their own insulin, so their pancreases keep churning out this critical hormone in an effort to herd glucose into cells. There is some scientific evidence that high levels of insulin in the blood cause damaging changes to the lining of blood vessels that lead to atherosclerosis.

Another theory suggests that blood sugar itself is the culprit. In all humans, a chemical reaction between glucose and proteins in the body produces compounds called advanced glycosylation endproducts, or AGEs. As the acronym suggests, your body produces greater numbers of AGEs as you get older. Since diabetes increases the amount of glucose in your blood that's available to be glycosylated, people with the disease tend to have high concentrations of AGEs. Unfortunately, these demon compounds may damage arteries, making them more likely to clog, in addition to increasing the risk for a long list of other common diabetes complications.

The role of AGEs and elevated blood sugar in heart disease remains up for debate. Not up for debate is the link between diabetes and hypertension. Read the next section to learn more.

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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.