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Heart Disease and Diabetes

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What Causes Heart Disease in People With Diabetes? continued...

When the cholesterol plaques can break apart or rupture, it causes blood clots and blocks the blood vessel. This can lead to a heart attack. The same process can happen in all of the arteries in the body, resulting in lack of blood to the brain, causing a stroke or lack of blood to the feet, hands, or arms causing peripheral vascular disease.

Not only are people with diabetes at higher risk for heart disease, they're also at higher risk for heart failure, a serious medical condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood adequately. This can lead to fluid build-up in the lungs that causes difficulty breathing, or fluid retention in other parts of the body (especially the legs) that causes swelling.

What Are Some Symptoms of a Heart Attack?

The symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling faint.
  • Feeling dizzy.
  • Excessive and unexplained sweating.
  • Pain in the shoulders, jaw, and left arm.
  • Chest pain or pressure (especially during activity).
  • Nausea.

Remember not everyone has pain and these other classic symptoms with a heart attack. This is especially true for women.

*If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Peripheral vascular disease has the following symptoms:

  • Cramping in your legs while walking (intermittent claudication) or hips or buttocks pain
  • Cold feet.
  • Decreased or absent pulses in the feet or legs.
  • Loss of fat under the skin of the lower parts of the legs.
  • Loss of hair on the lower parts of the legs.

How Is Heart Disease Treated in Those With Diabetes?

There are several treatment options for heart disease in those with diabetes, depending on the severity of the heart disease, including:

  • Aspirin therapy* to reduce the risks of clots that lead to heart attacks and strokes.
  • Diet.
  • Exercise not only for weight loss, but to improve blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and to decrease abdominal fat, a risk factor of heart disease.
  • Medicines.
  • Surgery.

How Is Peripheral Vascular Disease Treated?

Peripheral vascular disease is treated by:

  • Participation in a regular walking program (45 minutes per day, followed by rest)
  • Special footwear
  • Aiming for an A1c below 7%
  • Lowering your blood pressure to less than 130/80
  • Geting your cholesterol to below 100
  • Aspirin therapy*
  • Medicines
  • Stopping smoking
  • Surgery (in some cases)

*Low-dose aspirin therapy is recommended for men and women with type 2 diabetes who are over age 40 and are at high risk for heart disease and peripheral vascular disease. Talk to your doctor to determine if aspirin therapy is right for you. If you have certain medical conditions, aspirin therapy may not be recommended.

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