CardioSpecialists Group, Ltd.
About Diabetes

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that results from the inability of the body to manufacture enough insulin to digest carbohydrates from food. When this happens, the amount of sugar from the carbohydrates increases in the blood stream. If there is too much sugar in the blood, it can cause damage to many parts of the body, including the heart and blood vessels. Careful control of diabetes is required to maintain overall health.

Type I diabetes often occurs in children and it happens when no insulin is produced and supplemental shots must be taken regularly. Type II was once called adult onset, but it is now seen in children. It is a reduction in the amount of insulin made in the pancreas, and those with this type might be able to control their blood sugar with diet and exercise.

Diabetes is one of the leading factors in developing heart disease. If you have diabetes, you are at greater risk for developing coronary artery disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart failure, and cerebrovascular disease.

What Causes Diabetes?

Many factors seem to put you at a greater risk for developing diabetes, even though the precise cause of the disease is unknown. A family history, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all increase the risk for diabetes. Type I diabetes cannot be prevented, but if your doctor notes that your blood sugar is high, but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis, you can take steps to avoid developing Type II diabetes. These include getting regular exercise, controlling your diet, watching your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and lowering stress.

Heart disease resulting from diabetes can happen when the blood sugar is too high causing the blood vessels to narrow and loose elasticity. This increases the pressure on the inside of your arteries, speeding damage and putting your heart at risk. Additionally, plaque buildup also happens faster in those who have diabetes. Plaque build up can cause a blockage of the arteries. If this happens in the arteries which supply the heart, it is known as coronary artery disease.

What Are the Symptoms?

Diabetes symptoms are similar for both types. These include: weight loss, extreme thirst, fatigue, and increased urination. If you already have diabetes, be on the lookout for heart complications. Signs that your heart might have been affected by diabetes include: shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure(angina), dizziness, abnormal heartbeat, sweating, gray facial color, swelling of the legs or ankles (edema), and fatigue.

How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?

Based upon your reported symptoms, your doctor might order a fasting blood glucose test. You will have to avoid eating and drinking for a day before the test. A sample of your blood is drawn and the amount of sugar in it is measured. If you have diabetes, your doctor might prescribe lifestyle changes before recommending medications or insulin. To diagnose heart problems, your doctor might use one or several tests, depending upon your symptoms. You might have one or several of the following tests: blood test, physical exam, electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram, chest x-ray, exercise stress test, Holter monitor, CAT scan (computed axial tomography), coronary angiogram, MUGA scan (multi-gated acquisition), or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.

How Is Diabetes Treated?

To prevent and control heart conditions brought on by diabetes, you will need to keep your blood sugar in check. This means constant checking of your glucose (sugar) levels throughout the day and taking any medications your doctor recommends. If you have to use insulin, follow your doctor's prescription for the timing and dosage. Eat a healthy diet full of low-fat, low-salt foods and get regular exercise if your doctor allows. Depending upon the heart condition, your doctor might prescribe other medications for your heart or surgery. Discuss with your physician any questions you have.

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