Does diabetes cause heart disease?

Good and bad cholesterol

Unfortunately for diabetics around the world, heart disease and stroke are one of the leading causes of death for us. To give a definitive answer to the question how does diabetes cause heart disease and stroke we need to analyse the impact of high blood sugar on the body over time.

Over the course of time high blood sugar levels damage the inside of your body. Every vital organ reacts badly to elevated blood sugar levels as it damages the nerves and blood vessels around these areas, especially the smaller ones in the eyes, feet and around the heart.

Statistics suggest that diabetics are twice as likely to suffer heart disease or stroke than non-diabetics in their lifetime. In fact, heart disease is estimated to be the cause of death of around 80% of people with diabetes. Heart disease or strokes come at a much earlier age than non-diabetics as well. The good news is that many heart attacks are largely preventable.

Diabetics healthy heart

Why does diabetes cause heart disease?

Unfortunately the symptoms of cardiovascular disease may go unnoticed for a number of years. It is important to read about and be mindful of the symptoms to watch out for, as well as to manage your blood sugar levels. You should also go for regular check-ups at least twice a year with a doctor.

Over time high blood sugar levels can lead to an increase in fatty deposits on the inside walls of blood vessels in the body. These fatty deposits have the ability to block or clog the healthy flow of blood especially to smaller blood vessels that run directly to the heart.

Risk factors

Having diabetes definitely raises the risk profile of having heart disease and or strokes. Having a family history of heart disease also raises your risk profile. There are risk factors that may be within your control to manage. These include

Obesity, especially around the waistline. Having a fat stomach can increase the production of bad cholesterol which is bad news for your heart. Cholesterol and diabetes is a dangerous combination especially LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.  Please see my blog post on the dangers of high cholesterol and diabetes here.

High blood pressure is another risk factor that you can control. Having high blood pressure means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. This extra burden on the heart can see it weaken over time and may damage other blood vessels in your body including the eyes and kidneys.

Diabetics smokingSmoking is a risk factor that you can easily influence by quitting. Smoking narrows your blood vessels which diabetes does anyway so if you have diabetes and you are also a smoker it is just about the worst combination imaginable. Quit today there is really no excuse to continue smoking. Please see my blog post about how I managed to quit smoking after 20 years.

Symptoms of heart disease

If you suffer from any of these, it is time to go to the doctor for a check-up straight away. You may be sent for an electrocardiogram or EKG to assess your heart condition. Watch out for –

  • Chest pains or unstable anginaDoes diabetes cause heart disease
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in the ankles
  • Coughing and a feeling of panic
  • An irregular heartbeat

What happens when you have a heart attack?

A heart attack is caused by a blood clot preventing the normal, healthy flow of blood supply getting to the heart. They can come in many forms but all heart attacks are serious and require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of having a heart attack are listed above. There are also additional symptoms to watch for, they include –

  • Unexplained or sudden discomfort or tightness in the jaw, shoulders, back, arms or neck.
  • Nausea, dizziness, cold sweats while feeling the above symptoms.

How can you prevent heart disease?

People with diabetes and heart disease need to make immediate changes to their lifestyle. Quitting smoking is first, foremost and uppermost. If you are a diabetic who smokes you are bound to run into long-term problems. You will also need to make changes to your diet and exercise regime. I have numerous posts on the website about healthy changes you can make to both of these areas.

People with diabetes and signs of coronary heart disease will be advised to make lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, eating a healthy, balanced diet and incorporating physical activity into each day. A doctor might also recommend that you take medication (both prescribed and over the counter products). Some people are recommended to take a low level of aspirin each day. Other medication may include ACE inhibitors, statins, or calcium channel blockers.

A word on eating a healthy diet

The following factors need to be taken into account when formulating a healthy eating plan. You need to ensure that you are getting enough fibre in your diet. Beans, peas, oats and nuts are all good for your body as they have a high fibre content and are full of healthy or HDL cholesterol. You need to lower your intake of saturated and trans fats, especially the kind found in animal fat and dairy products. Look to eat 4-5 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day.

For a comprehensive guide on a healthy diet and the best eBook to be found online, please see this blog post. This book was written by a 5 star chef who reversed his type 2 diabetes with his award winning diet.


For diabetics to avoid complications of any kind it is important to manage your blood sugar levels while at the same time take care of your lifestyle that includes weight management via proper diet and exercise. The scary statistic is that heart disease will ultimately cost 80% of diabetics their life so it is the number one area of focus for everyone.

I would be interested to get your comments on does diabetes cause heart disease. Any experience or knowledge will be well received.

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  1. Michael

    Wow, this is a great article. It’s so important to take care of our selves. First we need to be aware and articles such as this is the type of information we need more of. When we know better we have an obligation to do better. In today’s society with people being so busy with work and family it a little hard to eat the right foods and make time for exercise. I think great articles such as this one and a little discipline on the individual anyone can live a healthier lifestyle.

    1. Ben (Post author)

      Very true Michael. Today’s society can make it challenging for people to make the right choices about their health, but is important to see what the alternative to these healthy choices are. Unfortunately diabetics are much more high risk in terms of heart disease than non-diabetics so making the right choices is even more important for them. It takes a while so sow a new habit but once you do life becomes a lot easier.


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