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Diabetic Heart Disease

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from foods you eat. The cells of your body need glucose for energy. A hormone called insulin helps the glucose get into your cells.

With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn't make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body doesn't make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, glucose builds up in your blood and causes high blood sugar levels.

What is diabetic heart disease?

Diabetic heart disease is a term for heart disease in people who have diabetes. If you have diabetes, you are much more likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke than people who don't have diabetes. And you may start having these problems at a younger age.

Over time, the effects of high blood sugar from diabetes can include damage to the blood vessels and nerves in your heart. This damage increases your chance of developing heart diseases, including:

Who is more likely to develop diabetic heart disease?

Diabetes puts you at serious risk for heart disease. It also makes you more likely to develop other conditions that raise your risk even more, including:

Your risk for heart disease is also higher if you

  • Are male
  • Smoke
  • Have obesity
  • Have too much belly fat around your waist, even though you're at a healthy weight:
    • For men, that's a waist more than 40 inches
    • For women, that's a waist more than 35 inches
  • Have a family history of heart disease
  • Have chronic kidney disease

What are the symptoms of diabetic heart disease?

In the early stages, heart disease usually doesn't have any symptoms. But if your heart disease worsens, you can have symptoms. Your symptoms will depend on the type of heart disease you have. They might include:

It's important to know that people with diabetes may not feel chest pain. That's because diabetes can damage the nerves in your heart. If you have any symptoms that could be heart disease, talk with your health care provider.

How is diabetic heart disease diagnosed?

To find out if you have diabetic heart disease, your provider will:

Depending on your risk level, your provider may send you to a cardiologist (a doctor who specializes in heart diseases) for care. If you do have heart disease, treatment will depend on the type of heart disease you have.

How can I prevent diabetic heart disease?

You may be able to prevent heart disease or keep it from getting worse by working with your provider to:

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.