If you have type 2 diabetes, you probably know about potential complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and amputations.1 But there’s another important, life- threatening complication that you may not know about: Type 2 diabetes puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.2 And with Valentine’s Day on the way, it’s extra important to pay special attention to your heart—not just for love, but for health.
As someone who studies the treatment of type 2 diabetes, I’m very familiar with the impact these kinds of complications can have. An estimated 29 million Americans have type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.3 These people are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (heart and blood vessel problems) than people without diabetes.4 Despite recent medical advances, about two-thirds of people with type 2 diabetes still die from cardiovascular disease, making it their leading cause of death.5 The reason? Diabetes can damage the heart and blood vessels, often in combination with other frequent conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, that can leave blood vessels prone to injury and plaque build-up.4
Not knowing is risky
Recently, a new national survey revealed that more than half of adults (52%) with type 2 diabetes do not understand that they face a higher risk of heart disease and related life- threatening events such as heart attack, stroke, or even death.6 Not knowing the problem makes it difficult to take action.
That’s exactly what happened to Malcolm, someone I met recently who has type 2 diabetes. Although he was diagnosed 15 years ago, he was in denial about his condition and unaware of the potential heart complications. He felt healthy and figured, as a physical education teacher and soccer coach, he would know if something was wrong.
But several years ago, while being treated for an unrelated sports injury, doctors discovered that Malcolm had a completely blocked artery—a result of heart disease likely related to his diabetes. Now 60 years old, Malcolm is dealing with both type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Luckily, Malcolm found out about his heart disease before it was too late.
The good news is, if you have type 2 diabetes, there are things you can do to manage your risk.Talk to your doctor and maintain healthy habits. Eat properly. Exercise regularly.1
Monitor your glucose levels.7 And see your doctor regularly for check-ups.
Malcolm told me he has done everything he can to make a positive lifestyle change for himself. His motivation is simple: he wants to be around to meet his future grandchildren and enjoy time with his family.
If you have type 2 diabetes, schedule an appointment to talk with your doctor about your risk for heart disease. After all, the sooner you know you’re at risk, the sooner you can start doing something about it. Follow the plan your healthcare provider gives you. Do it not only for yourself but for those you love.
Give a gift of health for Valentine’s Day
And if you have a loved one with type 2 diabetes, speak with them about it. As Valentine’s Day approaches, don’t let planning the perfect evening overshadow the best present you can give your date – information on their health. This holiday is the perfect opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about the connection between type 2 diabetes and heart disease, in expectation of many more candlelit dinners for years to come.
It’s not easy, I know. In fact, a recent survey from Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company revealed that people are much more likely to focus on the holiday than on critical health issues6:
- While 79 percent of respondents hope their loved one with type 2 diabetes takes them to dinner at a restaurant for Valentine’s Day, only 40 percent prefer to have a discussion about seeing a healthcare provider to discuss managing heart disease.
- And only 20 percent talk to their loved one with type 2 diabetes about their health risks on a regular basis.
- Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes spend, on average, 1,000 percent more time planning Valentine’s Day (3.5 hours) than they do talking to their doctor about diabetes (19 minutes at last visit).
But there are ways to help make the conversation go smoothly. Be direct about your loved one’s increased risk for heart disease.5 Be supportive and make it clear they can do something about it, and they need to start by speaking with their doctor. Finally, emphasize why you raised the topic in the first place. You want them to be around for a long time.
Take the quiz
Here’s something else you can do. Go to ForYourSweetHeart.com, where you’ll find the Heart You Quiz—one question that will help people learn more about the increased risk for heart disease for people with type 2 diabetes. You can also find downloadable questions to help you talk to your doctor. The Heart You Quiz has been reviewed and validated by a steering committee of leading cardiologists and endocrinologists, brought together by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company. The quiz takes less than a minute; your health is worth the time.
International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes Atlas, 7th Edition. 2015.
American Heart Association. Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes. (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/Diabetes/WhyDiabetesMatters/Cardiovascular-Disease-Diabetes_UCM_313865_Article.jsp#.WJzTGk2Qw8Y). Accessed: February 2017.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report: 2014. (http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/national-diabetes-report-web.pdf). Accessed: February 2017.
World Heart Federation. Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors. (http://www.world-heart-federation.org/cardiovascular-health/cardiovascular-disease-risk-factors/diabetes/). Accessed: February 2017.
National Diabetes Education Program. Snapshot of Diabetes. (http://www.nkfm.org/sites/default/files/documents/ndep_diabetes_snapshot.pdf). Accessed February 2017.
BI-Lilly Data on file.
“Is Glucose Control Important for Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Diabetes?” Diabetes Care. August 2013. 36(2): 259-263. (https://doi.org/10.2337/dcS13-2018). Accessed: February 2017.