People with type 2 diabetes are often unaware that their disease can have a direct impact on their heart health. One woman shares her story of diabetes-related heart failure and explains how others can educate and protect themselves.
When Brenda Hanna was told she had type 2 diabetes, she followed her doctor’s orders, took the prescribed medication, and paid greater attention to her diet and blood sugar levels. But what the 51-year-old television producer didn’t realize was that diabetes could have effects on other areas of her health. “I was widowed, raising an eight-year-old daughter by myself, and had tenants and a demanding job. Researching further into my diabetes was very low on my list of priorities,” Hanna explains, regarding her lack of concern.
I was widowed, raising an 8-year-old daughter by myself, and had tenants and a demanding job. Researching my diabetes was very low on my list of priorities.Brenda Hanna
Making the connection
Seven years after being diagnosed with diabetes, Hanna started having trouble breathing. It wasn’t until she had to call 911— because her symptoms were so advanced, that she learned she was suffering from heart failure. Despite this new diagnosis, at the time Hanna was still unaware that her heart problems were linked to her diabetes.
This lack of awareness of the connection between type 2 diabetes and heart disease is common among patients with diabetes according to John Sawdon, Public Education and Special Projects Director for the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, an organization dedicated to educating the public about heart disease.
The risk, however, is real. Alarmingly, women with diabetes have a 150% higher risk of heart attack than women who don’t have diabetes. Furthermore, type 2 diabetes can reduce one’s life expectancy by 15 years, precisely because of heart disease. These were critical facts that Hanna was unaware of at the time of her diagnosis.
Become your own diabetes expert. Ask your doctor about the link between diabetes and heart disease, and how they can progress if left unmanaged. It’s a sneaky disease that you should take seriously.Brenda Hanna
New treatment, renewed life
A year ago, Hanna’s cardiologist recommended a new treatment for her type 2 diabetes that also had proactive benefits for the heart. That therapeutic approach has radically changed her life. “Stairs are no longer a problem for me, and now I can breathe much more easily and deeply,” she explains.
Now that she is retired, she is finally taking time to better educate herself about her diabetes. Hanna recommends this approach to everyone. “Read, read, read,” she says. “Become your own diabetes expert. Ask your doctor about the link between diabetes and heart disease, and how they can progress if left unmanaged. It’s a sneaky disease that you should take seriously.”
Sawdon also believes in the importance of patients and their doctor acting as a team, and of going beyond guilt and judgment. “People can’t manage this by themselves,” he says. “We have to accept them as they are and work with them to find solutions.”
By following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and following an appropriate treatment plan, people with type 2 diabetes can improve their life expectancy and manage their risk of heart disease. With Hanna’s heart disease and diabetes now under control, she continues to do the things she loves like gardening and playing with her Rottweiler.
This article was brought to you by two of Canada’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies.