The Diabetes - Heart Disease Connection


Turner, Polly

This content is selected and managed by the Healthgrades editorial staff and is brought to you by an advertising sponsor.

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.


Most of us know that diabetes can lead to severe complications, such as blindness, kidney disease, and amputations. But did you know that diabetes also greatly increases the risk for cardiovascular disease?

It's a fact: Heart disease, stroke, and their complications are the leading causes of illness and death in people with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), heart disease affects people with diabetes twice as often as people who don't have diabetes, and it affects them at an earlier age. According to the CDC National Diabetes Fact Sheet 2011, cardiovascular disease causes more than two-thirds of deaths in people with diabetes.

Watch 5 Substitutions to Improve Your Blood Sugar

Last Review Date: Jan 20, 2014

Diabetes accelerates the process of atherosclerosis. Thickened, clogged coronary arteries are twice as common in people with diabetes than in the general population--even if the symptoms of diabetes haven't surfaced. Because such damage begins early in life--often in young adulthood--aggressive intervention to treat all the risk factors for heart disease should begin before the age of 30.

People with diabetes also are two to four times more likely to have a stroke than people without diabetes, the CDC says.

Prevention tips

If you have diabetes, the ADA lists several ways you can reduce your risk for developing heart disease:

  • Keep your A1C (or hemoglobin A1C) level around 7 percent. This test measures your average blood sugar during the previous three months. You should have this level checked at least twice a year, or more frequently if recommended by your doctor.

  • Keep your blood pressure at less than 130/80 mmHg. You should have your blood pressure checked each time you visit your health care provider.

  • Keep your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level at less than 100 mg/dL through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medications, if necessary. LDL is the main source for cholesterol buildup and blockage of arteries. Your cholesterol should be checked at least once a year.

  • Keep your HDL ("good") cholesterol level at 40 mg/dL or higher for men, and at 50 mg/dL or higher for women. HDL carries cholesterol from the blood to the liver, where it is removed from the body.

  • Keep your triglycerides level at 150 mg/dL or lower.

Lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk for developing heart disease include quitting smoking; losing weight, if needed; getting regular exercise; and eating foods with less saturated fat and cholesterol.

Medical Reviewers: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician; Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS Last Review Date: Apr 23, 2013

© 2000-2015 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

More on Diabetes Management

E-mail this page to your friends.

© Copyright 2015 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Patent US Nos. 7,752,060 and 8,719,052. All Rights Reserved. 
Third Party materials included herein protected under copyright law.

Use of this website and any information contained herein is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.


Diabetes and Alcohol Consumption


Real-Life Ways to Manage Diabetes

Up Next

Real-Life Ways to Manage Diabetes