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Diabetes and the heart

Heart complications


  • Sometimes the major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen, and nutrients (coronary arteries) become damaged or diseased.
  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among people with type 1 and types 2 diabetes.
  • People living with diabetes have a double to quadruple the increased risk of death caused by coronary artery disease
  • More than 50% of diabetics may eventually develop coronary artery disease


The major heart vessels (coronary arteries) that supply nutrients and oxygen to heart muscle sometimes get blocked by cholesterol-containing deposits (plaque). This blockage eventually leads to decreased blood flow to heart tissue causing tissue injury (ischemia) and death (infarct).

Symptoms of heart disease

  • Heaviness or pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breath Sweating
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Palpitations the feeling that your heart is pounding hard and rapidly and is fluttering or skipping beats

Risk factors to heart disease

  • Uncontrolled High blood pressure
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar levels
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • Obesity
  • Being a Smoker or being exposed to second-hand smoke
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Increasing age especially, above 65 years
  • Being Male sex
  • A history of coronary artery disease in the family
  • Being of an African Ancestry
  • Having a constant high emotional stress
  • Poor lifestyle choices such as being sedentary or having poor eating habits
  • History of high blood pressure in previous pregnancies
  • Sleep apnea

Types of heart attack / acute coronary syndromes

Unstable angina – This may be a new symptom or a change from stable angina which occurs as pain in the chest. Angina/pain may occur more frequently, occur more easily at rest, feel more severe, or last longer. Although this can often be relieved with oral medications (such as nitroglycerin), it is unstable and may progress to a heart attack.

Usually, more intense medical treatment or a procedure is required to treat unstable angina. Non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) This type of heart attack, or MI, does not cause major changes on an electrocardiogram (ECG).

However, chemical markers in the blood indicate that damage has occurred to the heart muscle. In NSTEMI, the blockage may be partial or temporary, so the extent of the damage is usually relatively small. ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). This type of heart attack, or MI, is caused by a sudden blockage in blood supply.

It affects a large area of the heart muscle and causes changes on the ECG as well as in blood levels of key chemical markers. Although some people have symptoms that indicate they may soon develop acute coronary syndrome, some may have no symptoms until something happens, and still, others have no symptoms of acute coronary syndrome at all. All acute coronary syndromes require emergency evaluation and treatment.

Complications of heart attack/Acute coronary syndromes. Coronary artery disease can lead to:

  • Severe Chest pain (angina) especially during physical activity.
  • A heart attack when the heart tissue is too compromised to adequately pump blood
  • Heart failure when the heart may become too weak to pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs.
  • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)

Prevention of heart diseases

  • Control conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes via lifestyle change and if need be medication use.
  • Quit smoking
  • Stay physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight Reduce and manage stress