Chapter 1: You Can Live Well With Diabetes! Diabetes and Cardiovascular Risk Over time, diabetes can lead to cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease, including heart attack and stroke. People with long-term very high blood glucose are especially at risk. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are conditions that also increase your risk of artery damage. The risk is even greater when combined with high blood glucose. High blood pressure also raises your risk for eye problems and kidney disease. High blood pressure makes your heart work harder than it should. Your cholesterol numbers tell you about the amount of cholesterol, a fat-like substance, in your blood. Some kinds, like HDL cholesterol, help protect your heart. Others, like LDL cholesterol, can clog your arteries. High triglycerides raise your risk for a heart attack or a stroke. Diabetes Damages Artery Walls Elevated levels of glucose in the blood affects the lining of artery walls. (An artery is a type of blood vessel. A vein is another type.) Arteries carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. When arteries are healthy, the lining is smooth. But when you have diabetes, the artery lining becomes damaged over time by high blood glucose, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. This allows the buildup of plaque (fatty materials, such as cholesterol) in the arteries. Cigarette smoking can also damage the artery lining. People with diabetes who smoke have a higher risk for that damage than those who do not. 10 Smooth lining When the lining is smooth, blood flows easily through the arteries. Damaged lining Over time, high blood glucose damages the lining. Plaque Blood clot Plaque builds up in the artery walls, making it hard for blood to get through. How Heart Attack and Stroke Happen The buildup of plaque narrows arteries. This means that any blockage, such as a blood clot, can cut off blood flow. When this happens, heart attack or stroke can occur. Many people with diabetes need to control their blood pressure and/or cholesterol. By not smoking and controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol, you can help reduce the risk of these problems. If you smoke, quitting smoking is one of the most important changes you can make for your health. Talk with your health care provider about ways to stop smoking. Together, you can make a plan to quit. Quitting may be hard and take some time. But, the potential health benefits are worth it.
Living Well with Diabetes
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