When you have type 2 diabetes, it's important to keep close tabs on your heart health. Getting your diabetes under control can go a long way in helping your ticker stay in top shape.

It might seem odd that a disease about blood sugar has such a big impact on your heart. But the links run deep because everything in your body is connected. Throw off one system, and it has ripple effects everywhere else.

Diabetes gives you a double whammy. It causes plenty of harm to your heart on its own. And it adds fuel to the fire, boosting the impact of other issues that raise your chances of getting heart disease.

Diabetes Harms Blood Vessels and Heart Muscle

The longer you have diabetes, the more your chance of having heart disease goes up. That's because over time, it can lead to:

Blood clots. When you have high blood sugar, it can make you form clots more easily. That can cut off your blood flow and make it more likely that you'll have a heart attack or stroke.

Problems with blood vessels. High blood sugar can damage their inside walls.

Once that happens, a fatty substance called plaque starts to collect in them. It's like gunk building up in the tiny cracks and crevices of a pipe. In time, it hardens your arteries and slows blood flow. That means your heart doesn't get the oxygen it needs. It also raises the odds of getting a blood clot in your heart.

Scarred heart muscle. Over time, diabetes causes changes to your body that can leave behind scars in the muscle of your heart. That sets the stage for even more problems because your heart can't pump as well as it should.

Swelling. As your body fights germs and fixes injuries, inflammation is a normal part of the healing process. When you need it, it's great.

But diabetes can trigger constant inflammation and irritation in your blood vessels. That can change them in a way that makes heart disease a whole lot more likely.

Diabetes Doesn't Act Alone

If you have any other issues that raise your odds for heart disease, your situation gets more complicated. Things like smoking and high blood pressure will harm your blood vessels more easily.

Being overweight. Too many extra pounds take a toll on your heart. When you have diabetes, too, you get stuck in a tough cycle. Together, they boost your chances of getting even more conditions that cause heart disease, such as high blood pressure.

Cholesterol problems. Often with diabetes, you also have:

  • Low HDL, the good cholesterol
  • High LDL, the bad cholesterol
  • High triglycerides, a type of fat found in your blood

That's a combo that leads to more blockages in your blood vessels. And that can mean getting heart conditions at a younger age than you might expect.

High blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure practically go hand in hand. When you have both, it doubles your odds of having heart disease.

When you add clogged heart arteries into the mix, you're getting it from all sides. The added strain and pressure simply wear down your heart.

Diabetes Makes Heart Disease Harder to Treat

Treatment for heart disease has gotten a lot better over the last 20 years or so. That means in general, you have a better chance of surviving a condition like a heart attack today than you did back then.

But with diabetes, heart disease is often more severe and starts at an earlier age. And some treatments just don't work as well. Even though care for heart disease has gotten better, it's been slower to improve for people with diabetes.

WebMD Medical Reference

NEXT IN THE SERIES

From WebMD

More on Diabetes and Your Heart