Posted by: wockhardthospitals | July 27, 2009

Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke in Diabetic Patients

To have diabetes mellitus or Pre diabetes (a condition where blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be labeled as diabetes) increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. According to medical research two out of three diabetic people die form heart disease or stroke.

Diabetes is a condition caused when the body fails to produce enough insulin or when there is resistance to the action of circulating insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas (a gland behind the stomach), that is required by the body to move glucose from the blood stream into the cells of the body where it converted into energy.

The human body converts digested food into energy that sustains the cells in the body. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose (a form of sugar) and dispersed into the blood stream to be used as energy. When there is deficiency of insulin the cells in the body fail to get the required energy resulting in a build of glucose in the blood stream and hence the cells starve.

High glucose levels in the blood can lead to several complications and disorders such as heart disease & Stroke. It left uncontrolled there could be several other complications i.e. Blindness, kidney failure and amputations of the limbs caused by damaged arteries.

Diabetes and Heart Disease and stroke

High blood sugar over a period of time leads to damaged nerves and blood vessels. There is hardening of the blood vessels and increased deposit of cholesterol on their walls – a process termed as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels and also causes increased tendency for clot formation within.

These two processes are the ones responsible for most heart attacks and strokes.

A Diabetic patent is twice as likely of having heart disease or stroke as compared to a normal person. Diabetic patents tend to develop heart disease and stroke at a younger age than people without diabetics.

People with diabetics are also more likely to have a second heart attack as compared to healthy people. Women with diabetes are also at a much higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Heart attacks in diabetic patents are generally more serious and complex and are more likely to be fatal.


  • Since diabetes is a chronic disease that can only be controlled it is very important to stick to the advice given by the doctor and to take your daily dose of medication at the right times. Go for regular check ups and monitor your pressure and blood sugar regularly.

  • Stick to a healthy diet – plan your diet with your doctor and stick to it. Diabetics require a diet that provides the necessary calories, fiber and protein Care should be taken to avoid the intake of sugar, saturated fats and food with high cholesterol

  • Regular Exercise – follow a program that optimizes your physical activity, follow exercise routines and walk at least 45 minutes a day (consult your doctor before starting any exercise routine)

  • Quit smoking – it could be the worst thing for you


  • Common Symptoms for heart disease

    • Chest pain or discomfort

    • Pain that runs down the arms

    • Pain in the neck and stomach

    • Excess breathlessness or perspiration even after short exertion

    • Nausea and dizziness

In Women the symptoms may be very subtle and difficult to diagnose.

A regular check up is very essential.

  • Common Symptoms for Stroke

    • Sudden severe headache

    • Weakness an numbness that comes on suddenly

    • Disorientation and confusion or sudden difficulty in recognizing people and speaking

    • Dizziness and loss of balance

    • Blurred and double vision

If you have the above symptoms it is of utmost importance that you receive treatment at the earliest. Remember the earlier the heart attacks and strokes are recognized the more effectively they can be treated and complications prevented. Delay in treatment can result in loss of life. So, if there is a suspicion that you or someone around you is having a heart attack or stroke, immediately seek medical help. Keep important telephone numbers and emergency numbers always at hand.

Summarizing, diabetes is a chronic disease which can throw up sudden surprises in the form of heart attacks and strokes. Good control of diabetes helps prevent these conditions. Periodic monitoring, regular diet and exercise and strict adherence to the doctors’ treatment is of paramount importance. If symptoms and signs of heart attack or stroke are noticed, getting medical help quickly can make a difference between life and death.

By – Dr. Venkatesh, Cardiologist, Wockhardt Hospitals.


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