Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are both incredibly common in the United States—and there is overlap between the two. People with diabetes are at higher risk for heart issues, including heart attacks and congestive heart failure, so it’s critical to manage diabetes well.
There are two subtypes of diabetes, and the type of diabetes someone has influences their cardiovascular care plan, said Stanislav Henkin, MD, MPH, a cardiologist with Dartmouth Health’s Heart & Vascular Center at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. “While type 1 diabetes often has a genetic component and is much more likely to occur in those who have a close relative with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is more common among people with certain risk factors,” Henkin said. “These include being overweight, not being active, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
While type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease, type 2 is not. Heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, being overweight or obese, inactivity, smoking, and polycystic ovarian syndrome in women are all considered risk factors that can come together to cause someone to develop type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes can cause atherosclerosis, which is the narrowing or hardening of the arteries. People with type 2 diabetes can already have this condition, or develop it later. Both atherosclerosis and diabetes cause inflammation that can lead to heart disease.
“People with type 2 diabetes can adjust their lifestyles to lower their risk of heart-related issues,” Henkin said. The best ways to manage type 2 diabetes and risk factors—especially lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol—are:
- Exercising regularly: aerobic exercise for 30 minutes per day, five days per week
- Eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and oils—and low in sugar
- Avoiding smoking
- Taking medication specific to the patient, like a type 2 diabetes medication or cholesterol-lowering medication (usually a statin)
About Dartmouth Health
Dartmouth Health, New Hampshire's only academic health system and the state's largest private employer, serves patients across northern New England. Dartmouth Health provides access to more than 2,000 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, as well as across its wide network of hospitals, clinics and care facilities. DHMC is consistently named the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in numerous clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth Health includes its Dartmouth Cancer Center, one of only 51 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, and the only such center in northern New England; Dartmouth Health Children’s, including the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, the state’s only children’s hospital and clinic locations around the region; member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and more than 24 clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. Through its historical partnership with Dartmouth and the Geisel School of Medicine, Dartmouth Health trains nearly 400 medical residents and fellows annually, and performs cutting-edge research and clinical trials recognized across the globe with Geisel and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT. Dartmouth Health and its more than 13,000 employees are deeply committed to serving the healthcare needs of everyone in our communities, and to providing each of our patients with exceptional, personal care.