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Being Cardio Diabetic: The Link Between Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes

Dr. Tariq Malik

2 min read

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A chronic condition that is rapidly recruiting unsuspecting individuals into its ranks, diabetes is not just a disease in and of itself, but also affects multiple organs and bodily functions, one of which is the heart. Diabetic individuals have greater chances of developing and perishing at the hands of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), an umbrella term for conditions pertaining to the heart and blood vessels, and heart failure.

The Connection:

In addition to damaging the functions of the liver and other vital organs, consistently high blood sugar levels can initiate multiple cardiovascular conditions by damaging the nerves responsible for controlling the heart and blood vessels; with the extent of damage increasing with time.

Another way that diabetes can cause cardiovascular issues is by promoting cholesterol/plaque buildup in the arteries, which then harden and constrict to make oxygen and blood passage difficult. The damage is further extended when the platelets sent to repair the ruptured plaques get stuck in the narrow arteries, hence blocking blood and oxygen and eventually resulting in a heart attack, stroke, or Peripheral Vascular Disease depending upon the route and location of the blocked arteries. Moreover, fluid build-up in the lungs caused by diabetes also multiples the risk of heart failure.


Although CVD is usually observed in individuals over 40, the age limit reduces significantly in diabetic individuals. Similarly, while the presence of hypertension, high cholesterol and/or other risk factors alongside diabetes increases the probability of death via cardiovascular disease and stroke by 2-4 times, the absence of any risk factors still increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by a factor of 5 in people with diabetes as opposed to normal individuals.

Why CVD is a high risk for diabetics:

Most diabetics possess one or more of the following risk factors, which naturally magnify the already high risk of CVD development, despite ongoing treatment and controlled blood sugar:

  • Hypertension: caused by elevated blood glucose levels and insulin resistance damages the blood vessels and magnifies the risk of stroke, heart attack, and eye and kidney problems.
  • High LDL (bad), low HDL (good), and high triglyceride levels: are s result of the patients neglect in the bid to stabilize blood glucose. This results in the development of premature coronary heart disease and lipid disorders.    
  • Obesity: due to continued insulin resistance, whether body-wide or in the belly region, is a common side-effect of diabetes and a major risk factor for developing CVD.
  • Smoking: considerably increases the risk of CVD when coupled with diabetes, as both of them contribute towards blood vessel constriction and damage, resulting in heart attack, leg infections, ulcers, and amputation.

Lowering the Risks: 

Although life-threatening, CVD is one of the most preventable and controllable diabetes risk factors:

  1. Diabetes Control: Diabetes management is the initial step towards preventing CVD and other health complications. Keep your blood pressure (with the targeted range being under 140/90 mm Hg) and cholesterol levels under control. Also, monitor and control your blood glucose with an A1C test that shows average blood glucose levels every 3 months, and quit smoking.
  2. Stress Relief: Chronic depression can negatively impact blood glucose and cholesterol levels, so practice stress relieving exercises like yoga and meditation, or take up a relaxing hobby you enjoy.
  3. Pills for the Heart: Diabetic individuals with an already-present heart condition might be prescribed medication for management or treatment, whereas others may require medication to manage their cholesterol levels. Whatever your medication plan, do not stop taking your medicines without your doctor’s consent.
  4. Move: In addition to adopting a heart-healthy diet devoid of saturated and trans fats, salt, and cholesterol and comprised of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, aim for moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day 5 days a week to remain active, keep your glucose and cholesterol levels within a normal range and lose weight, if you need you.

If you ever experience any chest pain, facial or arm weakness, slurred speech, or pain when walking, contact your doctor immediately as they could be signs of a stroke or heart attack. You can also book an appointment with a top Cardiologist in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939  for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your cardiac or diabetes-related concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Tariq Malik
Dr. Tariq Malik - Author Prof. Dr. Tariq Mahmood Malik is a cardiologist of international stature and fame. He returned to Pakistan at the peak of his career in 1993 and is now in full time practice of Cardiology and internal Medicine. You can seek appointment with him through oladoc.

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