Living well with heart disease and type 2 diabetes is possible with careful disease management and care.
Approximately 5.7 million Canadians live with diabetes, a lifelong condition where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or cannot use the insulin it has effectively (Type 2 Diabetes). We all know someone with this chronic condition, and with proper management, people with diabetes can live long and happy lives. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks and dangers that diabetes presents, and to take management of the disease seriously.
The perfect storm
One of diabetes’ greatest dangers and complications is the effect it can have on cardiovascular health. Diabetes means that there’s too much sugar in the blood, and this sugar sticks to things, including proteins in the blood vessels, which weakens the blood vessels and makes them prone to cholesterol build-up. This can result in reduced blood flow or a sudden complete blockage if a blood clot forms. Diabetes thus increases the risk of high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), coronary artery disease, and stroke.
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, people with diabetes are three times more likely to die of heart disease. They’re also at risk of developing heart disease at a younger age. Diabetes and heart disease share several risk factors, including high blood pressure, unhealthy weight, and high cholesterol.
Weldon Wadden, 75, of Cape Breton, N.S., experienced this convergence of health challenges firsthand. He had an aortic aneurysm in his 50s and later heart failure and a valve replacement. Sixteen years ago, he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) after being monitored for prediabetes for years.
The value of support
“We didn’t realize that heart problems and T2D often go hand in hand,” says Nancy Wadden, Weldon’s daughter. Nancy has been by her father’s side throughout the ups and downs of managing his health conditions. From checking in on him and accompanying him to doctor’s appointments to helping him to manage his diet and medications, Nancy has provided vital support to her father.
Recently, she worked with his health team at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital’s Heart Function Clinic to fine-tune an optimal medication regimen, which has greatly eased Weldon’s symptoms — including sugar lows and frequent weakness and dizziness. Weldon’s blood sugar levels are now well-controlled through both medication and healthy lifestyle choices, including watching his diet, being physically active, and making sure to get enough sleep.
“I feel wonderful now,” says Weldon. “I never thought the day would come when I’d feel like this again.”
Instead of worrying about her father’s health, Nancy can now relax and enjoy more quality time with him. The pair loves to sit by the wharf, watching the fishermen come in and reminiscing about old times. They receive support from the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Facebook groups, which provide valuable resources for both patients and caregivers. “It really helps to know that you’re not the only one going through it,” says Nancy.
If you or someone you love is managing T2D and cardiovascular disease, visit heartandstroke.ca.
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