How Diabetes Can Conceal Heart Disease — Even a Heart Attack

How Diabetes Can Conceal Heart Disease — Even a Heart Attack

It’s no secret that diabetes elevates your blood sugar. But even if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, as have 37 million Americans, you may not realize that this condition also affects your heart.

The sugar in your blood provides the cells throughout your body with energy. Derived from the food you eat, this energy is delivered to cells through your blood flow. When you have diabetes, this sugar builds up in your system. Without treatment, consistently high blood sugar can result in serious health complications, some even life-threatening.

Michael Avaricio, MD of Advanced Cardiac Care is a top-rated cardiologist in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens, New York, and has seen how diabetes can impact and mask the signs of heart disease — including heart attacks. That’s why he advocates preventive cardiology care for individuals who have an increased risk of developing heart disease, such as those with diabetes.

Here Dr. Avaricio breaks down how high blood sugar can impact your heart and how to prevent it from doing so.

Heart disease 101

Heart disease is an umbrella term for various heart issues, but the most common is coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries supplying oxygen-rich blood to your heart.

Plaque contains cholesterol deposits. As it collects in your coronary arteries, it causes them to narrow. This narrowing decreases blood flow, putting you at risk of a heart attack. This can also occur in other parts of your body, including the legs and feet. 

Such blockages in the lower body are referred to as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD leads to such symptoms as:

Often, these PAD systems are the indication of cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes.

The Diabetes heart connection

Diabetes and heart disease frequently go hand-in-hand. People living with diabetes are at double the risk for heart disease or stroke as those without the condition. More concerning, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes. 

That’s because diabetes can damage two vital components of a healthy heart: nerves and blood vessels. Nerves don’t just provide sensations; they also control your autonomic nervous system. These nerves regulate vital systems like circulation, respiration, and digestion. 

Nerve and blood vessel damage impact how your heart works and can change the signs of a heart attack. They can even prevent you from feeling the most common heart attack symptom — chest pain. The absence of chest pain can render heart attacks “silent” or painless.

Signs of a heart attack that you shouldn’t ignore, particularly if you have diabetes, include:

Women may also or instead experience pain in the neck, jaw, or left arm.

Protecting your heart when you have diabetes

First, keeping your blood sugar within a healthy range is imperative. You may accomplish this by maintaining a healthy weight, adhering to a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and taking medication if needed. It’s also advantageous to not smoke and limit your consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Dr. Avaricio also recommends scheduling regular preventive cardiology appointments. These visits enable him to identify any signs of heart disease at their earliest, most treatable stage.

Preventive cardiac care typically includes assessing your:

Regular screenings provide essential information on your heart function, blood flow, and nerve health.

If you have diabetes, taking the proper steps can help protect your heart, keep you healthy, and enable you to enjoy a long and active life.

To learn more about preventive exams and heart care when living with diabetes, call 718-737-9132 or book an appointment online at Advanced Cardiac Care today.

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