Heart Disease and Diabetes: Managing Your Risk


Did you know that if you have any form of diabetes, you’re twice as likely to develop heart disease? Let’s look at some of those reasons and what you can do to manage your risk.

Three reasons diabetics have a higher risk

The following is an overview of some of the main reasons diabetics are at higher risk: 

  1. High levels of blood glucose. Blood glucose is made from the sugars in the foods you eat and is your body’s main source of energy. High levels of it can damage the inner lining of blood vessels and promote atherosclerosis, the thickening or hardening of heart arteries.
  2. Systemic inflammation and oxidative stress associated with diabetes also contributes to the progression of atherosclerosis. This is because inflammation increases the risk of forming blood clots that can obstruct the coronary arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
  3. Diabetes disrupts vascular health, meaning that the function of the large blood vessels supporting the heart can become compromised, increasing the risk of heart dysfunction.

The combination of these factors emphasizes the importance of risk factor management and preventive strategies. 

Know the early warning signs 

It’s important to understand what the most common warning signs are to protect your health. The following are some of the most common warning signs of heart disease:

  1. Chest discomfort when walking or exercising.
  2. Chest pain along with fatigue (tiredness) or shortness of breath.
  3. Resting heart rate is faster than 100 beats per minute.  

There are also additional signs that differ between men and women. For men, chest pain is the most common complaint, as well as erectile dysfunction, especially in young men. For women, chest discomfort in the form of Angina (a heaviness or dull ache in the chest) is quite common, as well as patterns of nausea, vomiting, and/or pain in the neck, jaw, and abdomen areas. The reason for these differences is that men and women have different heart and blood vessel sizes. 

If you are experiencing any one of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor right away. For more information on symptoms associated with diabetes, visit our post titled Diabetes Early Signs.

Protect yourself from heart disease

Now that we’ve gotten some of the bad news out of the way, let’s talk about the good news. As with diabetes, nutrition plays a huge role in protecting your heart. A heart-healthy diet and diabetic-friendly diet share several similarities. Here are some ways they are similar:

  1. Emphasis on whole foods, not prepackaged foods. Whole foods help regulate blood sugar levels and protect your heart.
  2. Limitation of added sugars and refined carbohydrates. These foods can spike blood sugar levels quickly and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes complications.
  3. Portion control and balanced meals. Balanced meals containing a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent overeating.

For more information and ideas on heart-healthy diets, visit our recent post A Heart Healthy Diet: Misconceptions and Simple Tips


Diabetics face twice the risk of developing heart disease due to high blood glucose levels, inflammation, and vascular dysfunction. A heart-healthy and diabetic-friendly diet offers significant protection against heart disease. Early symptom recognition and dietary adjustments are essential for managing risk effectively.

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