Posted on October 02, 2016

Having diabetes increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease. According to Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Chair of Internal Medicine, Professor Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra, almost two thirds of patients with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease.

“If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than someone without diabetes. Diabetes is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease. Diabetics have an increased susceptibility to blood vessel damage. This damage is thought to be caused by the long-term effects of inadequate blood glucose control and other cell damage related to diabetes. Being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle, two of the major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, can also lead to high blood pressure and increase one’s risk for heart disease,” said Professor Abou-Samra.

Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in the blood and can promote the development of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries around the heart. Called atheroma, buildup of these fatty deposits reduces blood flow to the heart muscle and can result in coronary heart disease. “It is important that patients with diabetes, and those who are pre-diabetic, are aware of the factors that put them at increased risk for heart disease. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, getting enough sleep and making other good lifestyle choices are among the best ways to prevent escalation from pre-diabetes to diabetes,” added Professor Abou-Samra.

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According to the World Heart Federation, most cardiovascular disease is caused by risk factors that can be treated or prevented. The Federation says that 80% of premature deaths from heart disease can be avoided, a finding Professor Abou-Samra supports. “Smoking cessation, management of blood pressure and treatment of lipid disorders (cholesterol) are all essential for the prevention of heart diseases in patients with diabetes,” said Professor Abou-Samra. “Additionally, physical fitness and healthy dietary habits are important for heart health. For diabetics, exercising an average of 30 minutes a day, if tolerated, will decrease their risk of heart disease and help control their diabetes.”

Professor Abou-Samra says patients who have undiagnosed diabetes are at the greatest risk for heart attack. Adding that diagnosing diabetes in patients who have had a heart attack is also important because of the role diabetes plays in heart disease. “By treating diabetes early, we may be able to prevent not only heart attacks, but also additional cardiovascular complications. Type 2 diabetes can be present without symptoms, underscoring the importance of diabetes screenings. Those who have a family history or are overweight should be screened through a fasted blood test,” said Professor Abou-Samra.

Last month HMC launched a heart health campaign to help educate the public on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. The campaign also includes information about heart conditions and the importance of maintaining a healthy heart. Heart attacks are one of the biggest causes of death in Qatar. In 2015 there were over 20,000 patient admissions to Heart Hospital for heart related conditions.