Advertisement

How Type 2 Diabetes Can Change the Heart

Learn how type 2 diabetes can alter the structure of the heart and how the heart functions.

How Type 2 Diabetes Can Change the Heart

The leading cause of death among people with type 2 diabetes is cardiovascular disease, an umbrella term for a number of conditions that affect the body’s system that circulates blood through the body and includes the veins, arteries and the heart. Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease that occurs in people with diabetes is sometimes referred to as diabetic heart disease. The elevated levels of blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure associated with type 2 diabetes can damage the cardiovascular system in a number of ways.

Diabetic heart disease
To understand how diabetes can cause changes to the heart, it helps to understand a few things related to diabetes and heart disease. One of the major ways diabetes contributes to cardiovascular disease is the formation of arterial plaque, a substance made up of fats, cholesterol and calcium that accumulates in the arteries and causes them to narrow—a condition called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can result in coronary artery disease (CAD), a narrowing of the arteries near the heart. There is also peripheral artery disease (PAD), which affects arteries outside the heart (most often, the arteries in the legs), and carotid artery disease, which affects arteries that deliver blood to the head and brain. This narrowing of the arteries forces the heart to work harder than normal to circulate blood throughout the body.

How does diabetes contribute to these conditions? The explanation is complicated, and involves a number of different metabolic processes. Diabetes is associated with higher levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of blood fat), and lower levels of HDL cholesterol, all of which contribute to arterial plaque. Diabetes is also associated with reduced circulation and increased inflammation, which contribute to the formation of plaque.

Structural and functional changes
The heart is a muscle. As the heart is forced to work harder than normal to circulate blood throughout the body, it becomes damaged, the same as any muscle that is put under repeated abnormal stress. Over time, the heart may develop a disease called cardiomyopathy. The heart may become enlarged and the walls thinner, or the walls of the heart may become thicker and less flexible. In either case, the heart does not pump efficiently. This can result in a number of problems, including heart attacks, heart failure and strokes.

Keep your heart healthy
Remember that type 2 diabetes increases your risk of heart disease—it is not a guarantee of any of these heart conditions. If you have type 2 diabetes, there is a lot that you can do to protect your heart from these potential complications. It is important to work with your healthcare provider to keep your numbers at goal—this includes your daily blood glucose levels, A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as other metrics that your healthcare provider determines are important to your diabetes management, such as your weight. In addition to taking the medications that are prescribed by your healthcare provider, remember that a type 2 diabetes treatment plan must incorporate regular physical exercise as well as a healthy eating plan.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

Interactive Patient Journey: Becoming a Healthy Diabetic
Interactive Patient Journey: Becoming a Healthy Diabetic
Interactive Doctor Discussion Tool: Type 2 Diabetes
Interactive Doctor Discussion Tool: Type 2 Diabetes
An Interactive Journey Into Diabetes
An Interactive Journey Into Diabetes
Everything You Need to Know About Type 2 Diabetes
Everything You Need to Know About Type 2 DiabetesEverything You Need to Know About Type 2 DiabetesEverything You Need to Know About Type 2 DiabetesEverything You Need to Know About Type 2 Diabetes
A Beginner's Guide to Exercising With Diabetes
A Beginner's Guide to Exercising With DiabetesA Beginner's Guide to Exercising With DiabetesA Beginner's Guide to Exercising With DiabetesA Beginner's Guide to Exercising With Diabetes
Quality Sleep Impacts Blood Sugar
Quality Sleep Impacts Blood Sugar
4 Lessons From Cities With Low Diabetes Incidences
4 Lessons From Cities With Low Diabetes Incidences
4 Things to Know About Diabetic Heart Disease
4 Things to Know About Diabetic Heart Disease
3 Diabetes Numbers That Are as Important as A1C
3 Diabetes Numbers That Are as Important as A1C
My Diabetes Story: David
My Diabetes Story: David
Good Carb, Bad Carb: Do You Know the Difference?
Good Carb, Bad Carb: Do You Know the Difference?
Protect Your Teeth and Gums From Diabetes
Protect Your Teeth and Gums From Diabetes
Eating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to Avoid
Eating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to AvoidEating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to AvoidEating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to AvoidEating Out with Diabetes: 7 Mistakes to Avoid
6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes
6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes
A Guide to Diabetes-Friendly Movie Snacks
A Guide to Diabetes-Friendly Movie Snacks
What to Know—and What to Forget—About Diabetes
What to Know—and What to Forget—About DiabetesWhat to Know—and What to Forget—About DiabetesWhat to Know—and What to Forget—About DiabetesWhat to Know—and What to Forget—About Diabetes
How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues
9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues
3 Easy Ways to Manage Your Diabetes
3 Easy Ways to Manage Your Diabetes
What to Do If Your Blood Sugar Drops
What to Do If Your Blood Sugar Drops
The Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
The Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes
Get a Good Night’s Sleep for Better Blood Sugar
Get a Good Night’s Sleep for Better Blood Sugar
6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike
6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike6 Foods That Won’t Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike
Living Well With Type 2 Diabetes
Living Well With Type 2 Diabetes
Your Diabetes-Friendly Shopping List
Your Diabetes-Friendly Shopping List
How Type 2 Diabetes Affects Your Organs
How Type 2 Diabetes Affects Your Organs
Know Your Risk: Diabetic Heart Disease
Know Your Risk: Diabetic Heart Disease
5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body
5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body5 Ways High Blood Sugar Damages the Body
How Diabetes Can Impact Your Sex Life
How Diabetes Can Impact Your Sex Life
Which Type of Exercise Is Best to Manage My Diabetes?
Which Type of Exercise Is Best to Manage My Diabetes?
How Glucose and Insulin Help Your Body Function
How Glucose and Insulin Help Your Body Function
Type 2 Diabetes: 5 Simple Strategies for Healthier Habits
Type 2 Diabetes: 5 Simple Strategies for Healthier Habits
5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas
5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas5 Diabetes-Friendly Breakfast Ideas
Treating Your Type 2 Diabetes
Treating Your Type 2 Diabetes
Strawberry and Banana Smoothie
Strawberry and Banana Smoothie
Diabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your Desk
Diabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your DeskDiabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your DeskDiabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your DeskDiabetes-Friendly Snacks to Keep in Your Desk
4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes
4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes4 Ways Winter Affects Your Diabetes
See How Type 2 Diabetes Affects the Whole Body—Not Just the Pancreas
See How Type 2 Diabetes Affects the Whole Body—Not Just the Pancreas
Are You Ready to Try a Plant-Based Diet?
Are You Ready to Try a Plant-Based Diet?
How to Exercise With Type 2 Diabetes
How to Exercise With Type 2 DiabetesHow to Exercise With Type 2 DiabetesHow to Exercise With Type 2 DiabetesHow to Exercise With Type 2 Diabetes
7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes
7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes7 Tips for Traveling With Type 2 Diabetes
The Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes
The Best and Worst Foods for Diabetes
Sip This Peanut Butter and Raspberry Smoothie
Sip This Peanut Butter and Raspberry Smoothie
7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It
7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It7 Ways High Blood Sugar Affects Your Body—And Why You Should Track It