Latest research has shown that diabetics are almost 50% more likely to have a heart attack than those without the condition. The study, conducted in the United Kingdom shows the extent to which people with diabetes are dying earlier and developing more health problems than the rest of the population.
Diabetics are at greater risk of heart failure and other potentially fatal conditions including angina and strokes. They are 65% more likely to have heart failure.
According to Professor Derick Raal, Head of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Witwatersrand, and Secretary of the Lipid and Atherosclerosis Society of Southern Africa, this is consistent with what we see in South Africa. Approximately 2 million people in South Africa suffer from diabetes, the incidence can be as high as 13% in adults living in urban areas. This is further compounded by the fact that diabetes often has an insidious onset and so by the time the person is diagnosed they have often already developed some of the complications of the disease.
Damage to blood vessels
"People with diabetes know that they should keep their sugar level under control. What they don’t know," he continues, "is the potentially devastating effect of diabetes on the heart and blood circulation." Over time, diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels resulting in a heart attack or stroke. In fact when assessing cardiovascular risk in a person who has had diabetes for 10 years or more, doctors place these individuals at the same cardiovascular risk as someone who has had a previous heart attack – very high risk.
Most people with diabetes are aware that they should check their blood pressure and blood glucose. In 2013, people with diabetes’ New Year’s resolution must be to add one more health test to their health check. Check your LDL-cholesterol twice a year and make sure the level is below 1.8 mmol/L urges SA Heart’s national campaign.
To achieve an LDL-Cholesterol level of 1.8 mmol/L medicines called statins are often required. These medicines are tried and trusted and proven to be remarkably safe. For every 1 mmol/L reduction in LDL-cholesterol the risk of having a cardiovascular event is reduced by approximately 20%.
The devastating effect of diabetes on the heart can be prevented if diabetics talk to their doctors about these three things:
- Ask your doctor to check your LDL-Cholesterol twice a year with your regular check up
- Talk to your doctor about what to do to keep your LDL-Cholesterol level below 1.8 mmol/L
- Follow a healthy diet and take your medicine as agreed with your doctor