Diabetic heart disease (DHD) increases the likelihood of earlier and more severe heart problems. People who have DHD also tend to have less success from certain heart disease treatments, such as coronary artery bypass grafting and percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as coronary angioplasty.
However, if you follow your treatment plans for diabetes and DHD, you can improve your chances of:
- Preventing severe heart problems, such as a heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, or sudden death
- Slowing the progress of atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque in the arteries)
- Protecting your heart from heart muscle damage
Lifestyle changes and ongoing care can help you manage DHD.
You also should learn the warning signs of heart problems. People who have diabetes have double the risk of heart attack as the general population.
If you have signs and symptoms of a heart attack, call 9–1–1 right away. For more information, go to the section on warning signs and symptoms below.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you control DHD risk factors. However, making lifestyle changes can be a challenge.
Try to take things one step at a time. Learn about the benefits of lifestyle changes, and make a plan with specific, realistic goals. Reward yourself for your progress.
The good news is that many lifestyle changes help control multiple risk factors. For example, physical activity lowers your blood pressure, helps control your blood sugar level, reduces stress, and helps control your weight.
For more information about adopting a healthy lifestyle, go to "How Is Diabetic Heart Disease Treated?"
If you have DHD, having ongoing care is important. Your doctor will track your blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and blood sugar level (hemoglobin A1c) with routine tests. These tests will show whether your doctor needs to adjust your treatment.
Your doctor also will want to check other factors that can contribute to your risk of DHD, such as your weight.
Talk with your doctor about how often you should schedule followup visits or blood tests. Between visits, call your doctor if you have any new or worsening symptoms.
Seek the care and support you need from your health care team to manage your DHD. For example:
- Check with your doctor before starting any new physical activity.
- See a nutritionist or dietitian if you need help learning about or following a healthy diet that helps control your blood sugar level.
- Talk with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you're having trouble taking all of your medicines on schedule, or if you're having side effects from your medicines.
Emotional Issues and Support
Living with DHD may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. You may worry about heart problems or making lifestyle changes that are necessary for your health.
Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you’re very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.
Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with DHD. You can see how other people have coped with diabetes and heart disease. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.
Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 9–1–1 right away. Heart attack treatment works best when it's given right after symptoms occur. The signs and symptoms of a heart attack may include:
- Chest pain or discomfort. This involves uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of left side of the chest that can be mild or strong. This pain or discomfort often lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
- Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach.
- Shortness of breath, which may occur with or before chest discomfort.
- Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting, light-headedness or sudden dizziness, or breaking out in a cold sweat.
Symptoms also may include sleep problems, fatigue (tiredness), and lack of energy. The more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you're having a heart attack. However, not everyone who has a heart attack has these typical symptoms.
Even if you've already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. Some people who have diabetes have no symptoms when they have a heart attack. (This is called a "silent" heart attack.) Diabetes-related nerve damage that blunts heart pain may explain why symptoms aren't noticed.
Early treatment can prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle. Don't drive yourself or have friends or family drive you to the hospital. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.