3 Questions Diabetic Patients Should Ask About Their Heart

diabetic questions for your doctor

The heart pumps close to 2,000 gallons of oxygen-carrying, nutrient-rich blood through the body every day. When the heart can’t function properly, the entire body suffers.

Due to a variety of factors, diabetes impairs the heart and damages the entire circulatory system. Experts say that the damage done by diabetes is just as harmful to the heart as smoking cigarettes. In fact, cardiovascular issues are the leading cause of death among diabetics.

If you have diabetes, taking care of your heart should be at the top of your to-do list. Together with your doctor, you should be monitoring the status of your cardiovascular system and addressing any problems immediately.

Don’t know where to begin? Discussing these three questions with your doctor will give you a good start.

1. What are my risk factors?

The well-being of your cardiovascular system depends on several different factors. Being a diabetic already gives you one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Here’s a list of seven other things that can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels. Remember, the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop problems with your heart.

  • Smoking cigarettes – The nicotine in cigarettes denies the heart of oxygen and makes the heart work harder. Because of this, your blood pressure and heart rate go up. Smoking can also cause blood clots and damage blood vessels.
  • High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) – Having too much “bad cholesterol” (LDL) and not enough “good cholesterol” (HDL) can damage the heart. High cholesterol clogs the arteries and restricts blood flow.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) – Diabetics are two times more likely to suffer from hypertension than the general public. It weakens blood vessels, narrows blood vessels, and overburdens the heart.
  • Obesity – Obesity feeds into several other risk factors. It can cause hypertension and high cholesterol.
  • Stress – Excessive stress can decrease blood flow to the heart, and make your blood pressure and heart rate skyrocket.
  • Gender – Women younger than 55 have a lower risk of cardiovascular health issues than men of the same age. After the age of 55, both genders have an equal risk.
  • Genetics – Having immediate family members with heart disease increases your risk of developing similar problems with your cardiovascular system.

2. What is the current condition of my heart?

As a diabetic, you should have a frank conversation with your doctor about the condition of your cardiovascular system. Listen specifically for these medical terms:

  • Atherosclerosis – the hardening of the arteries caused by excess cholesterol and fat in the blood. This condition limits blood flow to the heart and other organs. Diabetics often have severe atherosclerosis that advances quickly and causes damage throughout the body.
  • Microangiopathy – damage to the capillaries and small blood vessels that is caused by chronically high blood sugar.
  • Autonomic neuropathy – damage to the autonomic nervous system, which controls the nerves of the heart and blood vessels. Blood flow, pulse rate, and blood pressure may be affected.
  • Endothelial dysfunction – damage done to the inner lining of the blood vessels. The vessels may lose their flexibility.

3. How can I keep my heart healthy for the future?

By knowing your risk factors and the current condition of your heart, you can make a comprehensive plan to keep your heart in good shape. Here are some preventative steps you may want to discuss with your doctor.

Maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system is a critical part of any diabetic treatment plan. Make sure to discuss these questions with your doctor at every checkup.  If you feel any unusual cardiac symptoms, alert your doctor right away or call 911.

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