Cardiovascular Disease

In people with diabetes, high blood glucose, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other risk factors contribute to the increased the risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and is the main cause of death in people with diabetes. The kinds of CVD that accompany diabetes tend to include angina, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, peripheral artery disease, and congestive heart failure.

For the body to work efficiently it needs a healthy circulation of blood through the arteries to transport oxygen and fuel to its tissues, and it needs to effectively carry away toxins that the body does not need. If a healthy lifestyle is not followed, or there is a family history of CVD, or diabetes, it is more likely that a build-up of fatty material will occur on the walls of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. If an artery becomes too narrow or even blocked completely, it can lead to certain areas of the body being starved of the oxygen and nutrients they need.

CVD can be divided into three groups:
Those affecting the heart and coronary circulation - Coronary heart disease (CHD)
If the hearts blood supply becomes blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty deposits in the coronary arteries, it can cause a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Those affecting the brain and cerebral circulation
A disruption to the blood supply to the brain (as a result of cerebral hemorrhage or a cerebral thrombosis) is a sudden loss of function of part of the brain, resulting in death of an area within the brain known as a stroke (cerebrovascular accident or CVA).

Those affecting the lower limbs and feet - Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)
A narrowing or blockage occurring in the arteries to the legs (and sometimes arms), may lead to pain in the calf muscle (intermittent claudication) due to impaired blood supply, and where there is death of tissue due to a loss of blood supply gangrene, which can ultimately lead to amputation.

Diagnosis and treatment for Cardiovascular Disease
It is difficult to diagnose CVD in the early stages, it is however important to identify risk factors and manage them by encouraging lifestyle changes or prescribing medication where appropriate. The preventative approach should help reduce the risk of developing more serious conditions, such as heart attacks, stroke and leg ulcers. 

Regular medical examinations should be undertaken to measure weight and blood pressure, and blood samples should be taken for long term blood glucose control, and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.  

According to Diabetes UK, CVD risk can be reduced if; your blood pressure is controlled and treated if it is above 130/80 mmHg;your total cholesterol levels are checked and kept to below 4mmol/l, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL – 'bad cholesterol') to below 2mmol/l, high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL – 'good cholesterol') to 1.0mmol/l or above for men and 1.2mmol/l or above for women. Triglycerides should be 1.7mmol/l or below.

Lifestyle changes can have the biggest potential to reduce risks associated with CVD. Increased physical activities can improve the action of insulin, and also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Losing weight if overweight, and following a healthy balanced diet and stopping smoking are key to reducing CVD.