How does having diabetes affect my heart health?
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Courtesy of DHR Health

By. Dr. Michael Seawell, DHR Health Heart Institute

Diabetes is a prevalent disease worldwide and endemic in South Texas.

The disease results in great systemic consequences and often leads to diseases of the coronary and peripheral arteries and heart failure, or weakening of the heart. Diabetes accelerates the development and progression of atherosclerotic heart disease and leads to the early development of coronary plaque, a wider distribution of plaque within the coronary arteries, and affects a higher number of the arteries that supply blood to the heart.  Additionally, diabetic patients have an increased risk of plaque rupture that can lead to a heart attack. All of these consequences result in diabetic patients having a twofold to fourfold increased risk of having a heart attack compared to non-diabetic individuals. The culmination of cardiac risk as a result of diabetes is that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in diabetics, causing more than half of all deaths.  Congestive heart failure can also be caused by diabetes.

Congestive heart failure is the clinical presentation as a result of a weakening of the heart or dysfunction of the cardiac muscle. This can be the result of a heart attack or a decreased blood supply to the heart, but can also result independent of atherosclerotic heart disease. Diabetics have a twofold to fivefold increased risk of developing congestive heart failure compared to non-diabetics and, like coronary artery disease, heart failure has a negative impact on quality of life and can cause early death.

Despite the serious consequences diabetes can have on heart health, there are treatments and steps that can be taken to minimize cardiac risk and slow the progression of cardiac complications. First and foremost, the prevention of diabetes is paramount and cannot be ignored in our population. Following a healthy diet and regular exercise plan can prevent the onset of diabetes, diminishing the risk of heart disease. Special attention should be paid to lifestyle changes for patients that have been diagnosed with insulin resistance or pre-diabetes, which is a reversible condition, as this condition can appear 15-25 years before the onset of clinical diabetes and early deposits of plaque occur during this time. Once clinical diabetes is manifest, adequate control of blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure reduces the risk of cardiovascular events by 50%. Your healthcare provider can counsel you and coordinate a treatment plan to prevent the progression of diabetes and the potential complications associated with your heart.

If you have questions regarding your heart health or would like to speak to one of our experts, please contact the DHR Health Heart Institute at (956) 682-1888 or visit our website at

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