Diabetic patients are prone to develop many health complications. To date, there is no cure for Diabetes, but it can be prevented and/or managed through diet, exercise and medications. Due to high blood sugar levels in blood, diabetic patients are more likely to develop other health complications. Diabetes produces a hormonal imbalance as well as changes in the blood vessels and nerves. As these effects become permanent, other health complications can also arise. Heart disease or cardiovascular disease is one of such health complications.


Causes and Risk Factors

The main cause of cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients is from blood vessels which have undergone changes. One such change is the thickening of the lining of the blood vessel.

There are many risk factors, which increases chances of developing heart diseases in patients of Diabetes.

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) –

    Patients suffering from both hypertension and diabetes have higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

  • High cholesterol and triglycerides –

    Diabetic patients with high level of LDL or bad cholesterol, low HDL or good cholesterol, and high triglycerides could easily develop coronary heart disease. (Learn more about foods that boost good cholesterol here.)

  • Obesity

    Diabetic patients who are obese are also more prone to heart diseases as it can trigger high blood pressure and the patient may have high fat, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

  • Lack of physical activity –

    Diabetic patients with inactive lifestyle may also develop heart diseases. Weight loss and exercise could prevent or delay development of heart ailments.

  • Constantly High blood sugars –

    If sugar levels are not checked in a diabetic patient and it remains constantly high, it could lead to cardiovascular diseases by narrowing the blood vessels.

  • Smoking-

    Smoking could increase risk of heart complications in patients with Diabetes.


The following symptoms could easily identify the presence of heart disease in a diabetic patient. Though symptoms differ for every individual patient, these are most common symptoms:

  • Pain in the chest or angina
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Pain or discomfort in the chest, shoulders, arms, jaw, or back
  • Sweating
  • Persistent nausea
  • Light-headedness

Diabetic patients should be checked for heart disease at least once a year. Routine urine tests to determine the level of proteins also helps to diagnose or rule out developing heart disease in a diabetic patient.

Types of Heart and Blood Vessel Diseases in Diabetes Patients

Four of the major types of coronary and blood vessel problems faced by diabetic patients are: Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Cerebral Vascular Disease, Heart Failure and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease is the result of a hardening or thickening of the blood vessel walls due to high sugar levels in a diabetic patient. Narrowing of blood vessels can either reduce the blood supply or fully cut it off, the result is a heart attack.

Cerebral Vascular Disease

Cerebral Vascular Disease occurs much the same as Coronary Artery Disease, the difference is that instead of effecting and blocking the arteries to the heart, this time, the arteries to the brain are affected. By blocking blood flow to the brain a Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) will occur. When the brain is deprived of the oxygen, carried by the blood, it can result in speech and vision problems, paralysis and even death.

Heart Failure

Heart failure occurs when blockage of blood vessels lead to hindrance in blood supply and damaged heart muscles. Diabetic patients are at higher risk; almost double risk of having a heart failure.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Diabetic patients may also develop peripheral artery diseases. This condition is identified the lower extremities not receiving a constant and adequate blood flow. It increases risk of heart attack or stroke. Some patients may even need amputation of a lower extremity from toes to a full leg and sometimes both.


To prevent heart disease diabetic patients should have annual cardiac checkups and work with their medical professional to avoid all diabetic complications. Maintaining normal glucose level can prevent or delay the development of heart diseases in diabetic patients. Weight control, smoking cessation, healthy and active life style as well as exercise are other preventive methods for heart diseases in diabetic patients. A balanced, nutritious, fiber-rich diet also helps in maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides and thus preventing heart diseases in diabetic patients.


Treatment for heart disease is a complete program with medicines, diet plan and exercises or other physical activities.  Diabetic patients suffering from heart diseases need to maintain healthy blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. With diabetes there are certain risks and complications. To be sure that your getting the best care possible, your doctor and you will form the center of your ‘medical team’, your fill team will consist of nutritionists, dieticians, a cardiologist, and more. Talk to your team and be active in the sport of a healthier life. You’ll be glad you did.