If you have type 2 diabetes, your chances of dying from heart disease are equal to that of someone who’s already had a heart attack. Yikes. There’s a reason over 30% of heart disease patients also have type 2 diabetes, yet so many of us remain unaware of the overlap between the two diseases. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.
Heart disease – including strokes and heart attacks – are one of the biggest causes of death in people with diabetes, raising those risks by a whopping four times when compared to the rest of the population. But why? Well, it’s because of the damaging effects of long-term high blood-sugar levels – eventually, the blood vessels in your heart can take a hit, making them more likely to build up fatty deposits known to raise the risk for a heart attack or stroke. As you can see, the surprising connection between these two prevalent conditions is not merely coincidental but rooted in the intricate ways they impact our bodies. Let’s take a closer look at the elements causing this dangerous comorbidity:
High Blood Sugar's Silent Assault: At the heart of the connection lies the impact of diabetes on blood vessels. Over time, persistently high blood sugar levels, characteristic of diabetes, can unleash a silent assault on the delicate network of blood vessels in the body, particularly those surrounding the heart. This prolonged exposure to elevated glucose levels sets the stage for a cascade of events leading to potential damage.
Vascular Damage and Fatty Deposits: The relentless assault on blood vessels can result in their structural damage. Damaged vessels become more susceptible to the formation of fatty deposits, also known as plaques. These plaques are comprised of cholesterol, cellular waste, and other substances, and they have a particular affinity for settling in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart.
Mutual Risk Factors: Diabetes and heart disease often share common risk factors, creating a perfect storm for comorbidity. These shared risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels. The convergence of these factors amplifies the vulnerability to both conditions.
Inflammation's Dual Role: Inflammation, a hallmark of both diabetes and heart disease, acts as a dual agent in this comorbidity. In diabetes, chronic inflammation is a consequence of elevated blood sugar levels. Simultaneously, inflammation plays a pivotal role in the progression of atherosclerosis in heart disease.
Atherosclerosis: As these plaques accumulate over time, atherosclerosis takes root – a condition characterised by the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. The compromised blood flow to the heart can lead to a variety of cardiovascular issues, collectively known as cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Insulin Resistance’s Impact: Type 2 diabetes, in particular, is marked by insulin resistance, where the body's cells become less responsive to insulin's regulatory signals. This resistance not only contributes to diabetes but also fuels the development of atherosclerosis, thereby linking the two conditions.
It’s plain as day – it’s all linked when it comes to health. When one thing’s gone awry, others will follow – but, as we’ve unveiled, the connection between heart disease and type 2 diabetes is rather unique, with many of us unaware of the effects of high blood sugars on our heart.
Breaking the Chain: Strategies for Prevention and Management
Blood Sugar Management: Tight glycaemic control is a cornerstone in preventing the progression of both diabetes and its associated cardiovascular complications. Consistent monitoring of blood sugar levels and adherence to prescribed medications are crucial.
Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle can significantly mitigate the risk of comorbidity. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and maintaining a healthy weight all contribute to managing both conditions.
Comprehensive Healthcare: Routine medical check-ups, including screenings for heart health, are imperative for individuals with diabetes. Collaboration between healthcare providers specialising in diabetes and cardiology ensures a holistic approach to managing the interconnected risks.
Eat Whole Foods: Perhaps the most important advice is to choose wisely what you put on your plate! Deep fried, sugary foods are the first choice for so many of us when we’re stressed – and with hectic work days and family commitments, who isn’t? But those sugar highs trigger the release of dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, into the brain and so begins the reward-seeking cycle. Research has shown sugar triggers our brain’s reward system, even proving to evoke a stronger reward response than cocaine. We know sugar is one of the lead drivers of increasing obesity rates, with studies showing a direct link between obesity and sugar. Worse still, researchers have found excess fructose can cause leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that tells the brain that we’re full, without it we may still feel hungry even after a full meal. The result? Weight gain, obesity and, yes, type 2 diabetes. It’s not all about boring steamed spinach and salad when you’re eating whole foods – quite the opposite! You’ll be able to enjoy a wide variety of flavours from fragrant spices and herbs to hearty veggies, legumes, whole grains, fermented foods, nuts and seeds. think rich soups, curries and roasts – not to mention the desserts! Yep, you can still enjoy a good dessert when you’re eating nourishing food – and it doesn’t have to spike your blood-sugars. If you love brownies, cakes and muffins, our No Sugar Baking Cookbook is the answer to your dessert dreams.
Need a little help fighting that sugar habit? Join us for the 8-Week Program and we’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health. With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
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So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!