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Exploring the Connection Between Diabetes and Heart Disease

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shelley zieroth

Dr. Shelley Zieroth

Cardiologist, Director, St. Boniface Hospital Heart Failure & Transplant Clinics

For Canadians living with type 2 diabetes (T2D), taking an active role in the protection of your heart is critical. Dr. Shelley Zieroth discusses actions that T2D patients can take to help prevent heart disease.


How can diabetes affect your heart?

People living with T2D can develop heart disease 15 years earlier than those without. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for Canadians living with the disease.

Diabetes can affect your heart in many ways. First, it’s a known risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease, which causes blockages in the arteries of the heart. This can lead to angina or chest pain, heart attack, stroke, and even death. Diabetes is also a known risk factor for the development of heart failure, which often presents as a weak heart that isn’t able to pump blood.


What factors increase the risk of heart disease in people with diabetes?

Risk factors of diabetes and heart disease are linked and share common contributing factors including low physical activity, poor diet, smoking, and obesity. High blood sugar levels can increase the risk of developing heart disease. There are medications that help reduce the threat of early death from heart disease, along with diet and exercise.


How can you prevent heart disease if you have diabetes?

If you have T2D, you can take steps to modify your risk of heart disease. First, it’s important to take an active role in your care and to ask your doctor about steps you can take to help manage your risk of heart disease. There’s a useful acronym for clinicians and patients called the ABCDES of diabetes care: A1C, blood pressure, cholesterol, drugs to protect your heart, exercise, screening, smoking cessation, and self-management. You can use this acronym during conversations with your health care provider to guide your discussion, bring attention to your priorities, and reduce your risk of heart disease.

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