About Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease Toolkit

Overview & Background: Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 30 million American adults have diabetes and type 2 accounts for 90% - 95% of diagnosed cases. With type 2 diabetes, the body cannot produce enough insulin or the insulin produced cannot be used properly. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps transport glucose (blood sugar) from the food you eat to your cells for energy. When glucose builds up in the blood, it causes damage to the blood vessels, which can affect various parts of the body including the heart. Many people are unaware that having diabetes means a greater risk of heart disease and related problems.

What is CVD?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the most common cause of death among adults with diabetes. This broad term covers a variety of problems involving damage to the heart and blood vessels. In many cases, the problems are the result of the narrowing or hardening of the arteries causing restriction of blood flow to critical areas of the body. For example:

When compared with people who don’t have diabetes, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing heart disease and may develop it at a younger age. They are also more likely to have existing risk factors (in addition to high blood glucose) that can contribute to heart disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

CVD contributing factors: Even when blood sugar is under control, people with diabetes still have a significantly greater risk of developing heart disease due to other risk factors that are often present. Some, like age, gender and family history, are not controllable. Others are within an individual’s control to change, including:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol and high triglyceride levels
  • Obesity and belly fat
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Poorly controlled blood sugar

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