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Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment

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How Does Type 2 Diabetes Affect the Heart?

Medically Reviewed By Kelly Wood, MD

People with type 2 diabetes may be at an increased risk for cardiovascular complications. Managing diabetes and following some healthy lifestyle practices can lower your risk. Quitting smoking if you smoke, maintaining a moderate weight, and lowering your blood pressure can all help manage diabetes and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Read on to learn more about how type 2 diabetes can affect your heart and how you can lower your heart disease risk.

How can type 2 diabetes affect your heart?

A person using a home blood pressure monitor
Photography by Jelena Markovic/Stocksy United

Type 2 diabetes means your body cannot produce or use insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone that reduces blood glucose levels by helping your body’s cells use glucose, or sugar, for energy. If your body can’t use insulin effectively, the risk for some heart issues increases, including Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source :

  • a buildup of substances in your arteries and veins, including those that cause blood clots
  • hardening and narrowing of your blood vessels
  • high blood pressure

These issues, in turn, can lead to the development of heart disease. This may include conditions such as coronary artery disease (CAD), which is characterized by the narrowing or blockage of the heart’s major blood vessels.

According to researchers, people with diabetes are 2–4 times more likely to experience CAD and heart attack.

What are some other risk factors for heart disease?

In addition to type 2 diabetes, there are other significant risk factors for heart disease.

High cholesterol levels

Your liver produces a type of fat called cholesterol, which your body uses to make substances such as vitamin D and hormones. But excess cholesterol, in particular low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, may build up inside blood vessels and block blood flow to organs and tissues.

High blood pressure

Blood pressure measures the amount of force your blood puts against the walls of your arteries and veins. Prolonged high blood pressure puts strain on your heart and may result in complications such as heart attack and damage to your kidneys.


Both smoking and diabetes cause your blood vessels to narrow. This prevents blood from reaching your heart and other body tissues, which may cause significant damage to arteries and veins.

Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle

Obesity is strongly associated Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source with insulin resistance, a condition that usually occurs before the development of type 2 diabetes. When your body is insulin resistant, it doesn’t use the insulin produced by the body effectively.

Insulin resistance may contribute to the development of other risk factors, such as high blood pressure. Exercising can help prevent insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes, in turn lowering your risk for heart disease.

Family history

If you have a family history of heart disease, you could be more likely to experience the condition yourself. If heart disease runs in your family, taking steps to protect your heart is even more important.

How can you manage diabetes to lower your heart disease risk?

Reducing your heart disease risk and avoiding diabetes complications starts with effective management of your type 2 diabetes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that keeping your diabetes “ABCs” in mind can help manage your condition:

  • A is for A1C: The A1C test monitors your average blood glucose levels over a period of 3 months. The higher your A1C results are, the higher your blood glucose is on a daily basis. For many people, the goal for A1C levels is less than 7%. Your goals may be different, and your doctor can help you set a goal depending on your unique needs.
  • B is for blood pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for the development of heart disease. Everyone’s blood pressure readings are different, and your doctor can help you determine what a healthy blood pressure is for you.
  • C is for cholesterol: Keeping LDL cholesterol levels low helps prevent the substance from building up and clogging blood vessels. Ask your doctor about what your cholesterol goals should be and how you can best achieve those goals.
  • S is for stop smoking: Because both smoking and type 2 diabetes can negatively affect your heart, quitting smoking is particularly important. Quitting can lower your chances of circulation issues, high cholesterol, and heart disease.


Diabetes and heart disease are strongly linked. Managing your diabetes can also help you lower your risk for cardiovascular complications.

Talk with your doctor about ways to manage diabetes and lower your heart disease risk.

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Medical Reviewer: Kelly Wood, MD
Last Review Date: 2023 Mar 22
View All Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment Articles
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