Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of early death in people with diabetes. At least 65% of people with diabetes die from one of these two conditions. Heart attacks and stroke result from the same blood circulation problems. You can lower your risk by controlling your blood glucose, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, and not smoking.
How Diabetes Affects Blood Circulation
High blood glucose leads to poor circulation, blood clots and high blood pressure, which are at the root of heart disease and stroke.
1. Reduced blood flow; high blood pressure
People with diabetes tend to have high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. These can lead to atherosclerosis, sometimes called "hardening of the arteries". This condition happens when fatty deposits, cholesterol and other substances build up on artery walls.
This buildup, called plaque, reduces the flow of blood to the heart, brain and kidneys, and increases blood pressure. High blood glucose causes artery walls to stiffen, which also increases blood pressure.
2. Blood Clots More Easily
High blood glucose makes the blood "sticky" so it coagulates more easily. It can also cause small blood vessels to 'leak'. Together, these factors can cause blood clots to occur.
Sometimes plaque in an artery breaks off and causes blood clots to form. These clots can block the blood flow right where they are. When this happens in a blood vessel that feeds the heart, the result is a heart attack. When a clot blocks a blood vessel that feeds the brain, the result is a stroke.
Traveling clots called emboli can also cause blockages in other parts of the body, such as the legs.
SMART TIPS: MAINTAINING GOOD CIRCULATION
People with diabetes have such a high risk of heart disease and stroke that the American Diabetes Association and the American College of Cardiology have joined forces. They are running a campaign called the ABC's of Diabetes. The ABC's reflect the fact that blood pressure and cholesterol are as important as blood glucose in keeping your circulation system healthy:
A stands for A1c test, a measure of blood glucose levels
B stands for blood pressure
C stands for cholesterol, especially the bad LDL cholesterol
To prevent the cardiovascular complications of diabetes,