Just handling your blood sugar levels is not enough when managing diabetes. According to research, India has 65.1 million diabetics, second only to China. Diabetic complications go beyond blood sugar and therefore risk factors arising from diabetes increase manifold. Diabetes increases your risk and susceptibility to many serious health problems. The good news is that with correct treatment and a healthy and responsible lifestyle these complications can be prevented or delayed. Moreover, it is far less of a burden on the wallet to manage diabetes early than to treat its complications like cardiovascular diseases.
If you have diabetes your risk of cardiovascular disease rises for a number of reasons. Hypertension, abnormal blood lipids and obesity, all risk factors in their own right for cardiovascular disease, occur more frequently in people with diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes causes damage to your body’s blood vessels making them more prone to damage from atherosclerosis and hypertension. People with diabetes develop atherosclerosis at a younger age and more severely than people without diabetes.
Research has pinned diabetes as the most important risk factor for heart disease. About 65 percent of people with diabetes actually die of cardiovascular diseases, and a person with diabetes has twice the chance of developing heart disease as someone without diabetes. A person with diabetes who has had one heart attack has a much greater risk of having a second one. A middle-aged person who has diabetes has the same chance of having a heart attack as someone who is not diabetic, but has already had a heart attack. People with diabetes develop cardiovascular disease at a much earlier age than others. Not only that, people with diabetes who have heart attacks are more likely to die as a result of it compared to non-diabetics who have a heart attack.
By controlling our blood sugar levels very stringently, we can significantly reduce the risk of some complications but this has minimal impact on the cardiovascular or macrovascular risk. This is not to say that diabetics don’t need to reduce their blood sugar levels to reduce their risk of having a heart attack but that benefit is not huge. In fact, diabetics can reduce their cardiovascular risk more by controlling their other risk factors like stopping smoking, maintaining control of blood pressure and keeping their cholesterol within the normal range.
Target and achieve
Diabetes needs to be managed with an all-round approach and by empowering the patient with information so that he/she can make informed lifestyle choices and adopt responsible health practices.
The statistics speak for themselves in the all-round management of diabetes – If you control your blood glucose levels you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by between 33% to 50%. If you control your blood lipids you can reduce cardiovascular disease complications by 20% to 50%. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet will improve your diabetes status. If you have impaired glucose tolerance and you lose weight, you can prevent the onset of diabetes. Stopping smoking will reduce your cardiovascular disease risk.
At BM Birla Heart Research Centre we recommend a targeted approach to managing diabetes so as to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Set healthy targets in consultation with your diabetologist and work together to achieve these targets.
Know and control your ABCs – Even if you have heart disease or have already had a heart attack or a stroke, every step you take to keep your ABCs (A1C, Blood pressure, and Cholesterol) in your target range will help lower your risk of future heart disease or a stroke.
Get your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and blood cholesterol checked at least once a year and aim to keep to the target agreed with your healthcare team.
Based on the opinion expressed by Dr. Anjan Siotia, Consultant Intervention Cardiologist