Islets of Hope  complications of diabetes

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By Lahle Wolfe

Source

Excerpts, edited by Lahle Wolfe for content, used with permission from NIH Publication No. 03–4283


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Diabetes Management Tools -- Online FREE from The American Heart Association:

My Diabetes Tools:

Game Plan For A Healthy Life: Improve your overall health and fitness with this 12-week program for people with diabetes. It'll help you start an exercise and nutrition program. Register for The Heart Of Diabetes and you are automatically registered for the program. Log in today.

Family History Tree

The more you know about your family's health history, the more you can do to reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Create your family's tree today.

Heart Healthy Tracker

Monitoring your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol is fast and easy with this online tool. Just log in and enter your information daily, weekly or monthly, then print out a complete report for your next doctor's visit.


 

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Diabetes Complications

Heart Problems Associated with Diabetes
Risks, Causes, Treatment & Prevention


Mini Site Index
Espanol
What do my heart and blood vessels do?
What can I do to prevent heart disease and stroke?
How do my blood vessels get clogged?
What can happen when blood vessels are clogged?
What are the warning signs of a heart attack?
|ow does heart disease cause high blood pressure?
What are the warning signs of a stroke?
How can clogged blood vessels hurt my legs and feet?
What can I do to prevent or control peripheral vascular disease?

What do my heart and blood vessels do?

Your heart and blood vessels make up your circulatory system. Your heart is a big muscle that pumps blood through your body. Your heart pumps blood carrying oxygen to large blood vessels, called arteries, and small blood vessels, called capillaries. Other blood vessels, called veins, carry blood back to the heart.      


What can I do to prevent heart disease and stroke?

You can do a lot to prevent heart disease and stroke

  • Keep your blood glucose under control. You can see if it is under control by having an HbA1C test at least twice a year. The A1C test tells you your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months. The target for most people is below 7.

  • Keep your blood pressure under control. Have it checked at every doctor visit. The target for most people is below 130/80.

  • Keep your cholesterol under control. Have it checked at least once a year. The targets for most people are

    • LDL (bad) cholesterol: below 100
    • HDL (good) cholesterol: above 40 in men and above 50 in women
    • Triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood): below 150
  • Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Check with your doctor to learn what activities are best for you. Take a half-hour walk every day. Or walk for 10 minutes after each meal. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Park at the far end of the lot.

  • Make sure that the foods you eat are "heart-healthy." Include foods high in fiber, such as oat bran, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Cut back on foods high in saturated fat or cholesterol, such as meats, butter, dairy products with fat, eggs, shortening, lard, and foods with palm oil or coconut oil.

  • Lose weight if you need to. If you are overweight, try to exercise most days of the week. See a registered dietitian for help in planning meals and lowering the fat and calorie content of your diet to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

  • If you smoke, quit. Your doctor can tell you about ways to help you quit smoking.

  • Ask your doctor whether you should take an aspirin every day. Studies have shown that taking a low dose of aspirin every day can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Take your medicines as directed.


How do my blood vessels get clogged?

Several things, including having diabetes, can make your blood cholesterol level too high. Cholesterol is a substance that is made by the body and used for many important functions. It is also found in some food derived from animals. When cholesterol is too high, the insides of large blood vessels become narrowed, even clogged. This problem is called atherosclerosis. (ATH-uh-row-skluh-RO-sis).

Narrowed and clogged blood vessels make it harder for enough blood to get to all parts of your body. This can cause problems.

Healthy Blood Vessel


healthy blood vessel

Narrowed Blood Vessel


clogged blood vessel



What can happen when blood vessels are clogged?

When arteries become narrowed and clogged, you may have heart problems:

  • Chest pain, also called angina (an-JY-nuh). When you have angina, you feel pain in your chest, arms, shoulders, or back. You may feel the pain more when your heart beats faster, such as when you exercise. The pain may go away when you rest. You also may feel very weak and sweaty. If you do not get treatment, chest pain may happen more often. If diabetes has damaged the heart nerves, you may not feel the chest pain.

  • Heart attack. A heart attack happens when a blood vessel in or near the heart becomes blocked. Not enough blood can get to that part of the heart muscle. That area of the heart muscle stops working, so the heart is weaker. During a heart attack, you may have chest pain along with nausea, indigestion, extreme weakness, and sweating.


What are the warning signs of a heart attack?

You may have one or more of the following warning signs:

  • chest pain or discomfort
  • pain or discomfort in your arms, back, jaw, or neck
  • indigestion or stomach pain
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • light-headedness

Or, you may have no warning signs at all. Or they may come and go.


How does heart disease cause high blood pressure?

Narrowed blood vessels leave a smaller opening for blood to flow through. It is like turning on a garden hose and holding your thumb over the opening. The smaller opening makes the water shoot out with more pressure. In the same way, narrowed blood vessels lead to high blood pressure. Other factors, such as kidney problems and being overweight, also can lead to high blood pressure.

Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. If you have heart, eye, or kidney problems from diabetes, high blood pressure can make them worse.

High Pressure


Image of garden hose: A person partially covers the opening of the hose to increase pressure and cause the water to spray out.
Low Pressure



Image of garden hose: A person partially covers the opening of the hose to increase pressure and cause the water to spray out.

A smaller opening makes the water pressure higher. In the same way, clogged blood vessels lead to high blood pressure.

You will see your blood pressure written with two numbers separated by a slash. For example: 120/70. Keep your first number below 130 and your second number below 80.

If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor how to lower it. Your doctor may ask you to take blood pressure medicine every day. Some types of blood pressure medicine can also help keep your kidneys healthy.

To lower your blood pressure, your doctor may also ask you to lose weight; eat more fruits and vegetables; eat less salt and high-sodium foods such as canned soups, luncheon meats, salty snack foods, and fast foods; and drink less alcohol.

Image of doctor taking a patient's blood pressure.
To lower blood pressure, get to a healthy weight.

   


What are the warning signs of a stroke?

A stroke happens when part of your brain is not getting enough blood and stops working. Depending on the part of the brain that is damaged, a stroke can cause

  • sudden weakness or numbness of your face, arm, or leg on one side of your body
  • sudden confusion, trouble talking, or trouble understanding
  • sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble walking
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes or sudden double vision
  • sudden severe headache

Sometimes, one or more of these warning signs may happen and then disappear. You might be having a "mini-stroke," also called a TIA (transient ischemic attack). If you have any of these warning signs, tell your doctor right away.


How can clogged blood vessels hurt my legs and feet?

Peripheral vascular disease can happen when the openings in your blood vessels become narrow and not enough blood gets to your legs and feet. You may feel pain in your buttocks, the back of your legs, or your thighs when you stand, walk, or exercise.


What can I do to prevent or control peripheral vascular disease?

  • Don't smoke.
  • Keep blood pressure under control.
  • Keep blood fats close to normal.
  • Exercise.

You also may need surgery to treat this problem.

 

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Page Updated 03/17/2006  Happy St. Pattie's Day!