Metabolic Health

Know Common Heart Problems Due To Diabetes

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Cardiovascular diseases are among the most worrying forms of ailments that a person with diabetes is likely to encounter. Heart diseases result from the weakening of the heart and its ability to pump blood. Choked arteries, restricted flow of blood, sudden drop or spike in the blood pressure are symptoms of underlying heart diseases. Diabetes causes heart attack, and cardiac arrest is a fatal manifestation of a persisting heart condition. 

Since diabetes is inherited from the family gene pool and is also induced by lifestyle choices, the risk to the heart is obvious. The heart health of people with diabetes is also affected by eating and sleep disorders and stress. According to John Hopkins’ medicine, brain stroke can be a result of the heart’s inability to pump blood to the brain due to blockage. Therefore, a person with diabetes is at a greater risk of heart disease. 

How diabetes affects the heart

With time, a person with diabetes may damage his heart vessels and veins due to unhealthy food habits and lack of proper guidance. If left unregulated, high levels of sugar in the bloodstream makes one vulnerable to heart ailments. One of the common causes of heart disease in a person with diabetes is plaque formation in the arteries. It restricts the supply of oxygen and nutrition to the heart and other vital organs. 

This brings us to the question: Can diabetes cause a heart attack? Apart from being at high risk of heart problems, a person with diabetes is prone to cardiac arrest. It is a fatal condition where the heart stops pumping blood, resulting in death. However, taking some preventive measures can lower the chances of an ailment that may snowball into a life-threatening disease.

Other factors that increase the chances of heart disease

Barring genetic conditions and congenital disorders, most heart problems arise due to external influences and unhealthy habits. Here are some factors that lay the ground for heart problems

  • Smoking: Smoking triggers plaque build-up in coronary arteries. It narrows the walls of the arteries and prevents the proper flow of blood. 
  • Obesity: Obesity or being overweight is the underlying cause of several heart ailments. It always helps to have an ideal weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) corresponding to the height of an individual. 
  • Alcohol: Alcohol leads to a spike in blood pressure levels and weakens the muscles of the heart, which can be detrimental to heart health in people with diabetes. 
  • Lack of exercise: Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Lack of exercise and outdoor activity can also lead to heart ailments. 
  • Unhealthy diet: Dietary intake full of saturated fats, alcohol, sodium, and trans fats are likely to expose you to heart problems, some of them fatal. 
  • Genetics: Lastly, your genes can play the proverbial Brutus for you. If your parents or grandparents have had diabetes and/or heart disease, you are more susceptible to heart problems.  

Heart problems due to Diabetes

High blood glucose is invariably linked to heart ailments. A person with diabetes is twice as likely to show symptoms of cardiovascular disease than other people in the same age group. High sugar levels in the bloodstream act as a corrosive agent and tear into the artery walls.

Some common heart ailments are listed below:

  • High Blood Pressure: The flow of blood rises through arteries, causing damage to its walls. So, a person who suffers from diabetes is at risk of high blood pressure.
  • Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood glucose drops to levels below normal. Hypoglycemia can be life-threatening since glucose is the main source of energy for the human body. It affects both adults and children.  
  • Higher LDL: In common terms, diabetes can result in a spike in bad cholesterol levels. These are also known as LDLs (low-density lipoproteins) and end up rupturing the walls of the arteries.
  • Increase in Triglycerides: Triglycerides are a type of fat that accumulates in the blood. Too much Triglyceride may cause hardening of arteries and reduced oxygen and blood carrying capacity of the heart.  

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How to Prevent Heart Attacks

It’s true that diabetes causes heart attacks. But you can keep heart ailments in check through precaution. Before tackling heart attacks, you must know how to recognize one. Some classic symptoms are: 

  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pain in the chest

Sometimes, pain in the left shoulder, arm, jaw and upper back can also be a sign of a debilitated heart going through an attack.  

A person with type 1 and type 2 diabetes should manage their weight and exercise regularly. Such people should refrain from indulging in smoking and alcohol consumption. Medication to control blood pressure can aid in keeping heart ailments at bay. 

A balanced diet can help a person with diabetes maintain their blood sugar levels. Food that triggers blood sugar levels should be strictly avoided. Always maintain a food chart to keep track of nutrients entering your body.

A medical practitioner can diagnose heart diseases through various body examinations. These should be carried out from time to time as advised by your consulting physician.


Type 1 or type 2 diabetes patients should be mindful of their heart health. People with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk, and thus, controlling their meal portions and regular health check-ups can help them maintain a healthy lifestyle. For a healthy heart, a person should maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking and alcohol intake, and get tested regularly.  Daily exercise can keep heart diseases at arm’s length. However, people with type 2 diabetes are exposed to the risk of silent strokes. Thus, they need to measure their blood glucose and blood pressure levels on a regular basis. In case of any symptoms, they should consult a doctor.

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