Diabetes and Heart Disease Go Hand in Hand

Arkansans lead the nation in deaths linked to both diseases—don’t become a statistic

Arkansas residents are first in the nation for heart disease-related deaths and number four in diabetes-related mortalities. These alarming statistics make it more important than ever to be mindful of your lifestyle and incorporate any changes you may need to help you or your loved ones avoid these life-altering conditions. 


Diabetes is one of the most dangerous chronic illnesses facing Americans. This disease impacts how the body produces or uses insulin—which is used to convert sugars in the foods we consume. This costly condition manifests itself in different ways and, even more dangerous, many who have the disease don’t even know it. If undetected and untreated, diabetes can result in blindness, loss of limbs and even death.

Types of diabetes

  • Type 1 diabetes. This is about 5% of cases, most often starts in childhood and is not as directly related to lifestyle choices.
  • Type 2 diabetes. This version of the disease is much more common in overweight or inactive patients, and while numbers are increasing among young people, it is often more common in adults over 40 years of age.
  • Gestational diabetes. When glucose intolerance occurs in pregnant women, this is called gestational diabetes. This condition is more common in heavier women with a family history of diabetes.

Close to home—diabetes in Arkansas

  • More than one in three Arkansans have pre-diabetes, which means they’re likely to have Type 2 diabetes (on a positive note, Type 2 diabetes can be controlled or even reversed with proper diet, exercise and care). 
  • One in nine people in Arkansas have diabetes. 
  • It’s estimated that over 75,000 people in the state have the disease without knowing it.
  • Healthcare expenses for people with diabetes are 2.3 times higher than those without the condition.  
  • There is a serious risk of heart disease and stroke for people with diabetes

How diabetes impacts your heart health

Diabetic patients are more likely to have other conditions that raise the risk for heart disease. In particular, high blood sugar—a result of diabetes—may damage the nerves and blood vessels that control the heart. Conditions to be concerned about include:

  • An excess of LDL—or bad—cholesterol in the bloodstream. This can result in an excess of plaque build-up and may further damage artery walls.
  • High blood pressure can be the result of both conditions, and increases the way blood is transported throughout the body. When blood pressure is high, the excess force can damage artery walls. High blood pressure, in combination with diabetes, greatly increases a patient’s risk for heart disease. 
  • High triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) and low HDL (good) cholesterol or high LDL cholesterol is thought to contribute to hardening of the arteries. Often these conditions don’t have symptoms. Your doctor can check your blood pressure and do a simple blood test to see if your LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels are high.

 Other factors that add to your risk of heart disease:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Eating a diet high in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium (salt)
  • Excess alcohol consumption 

People with diabetes are also more likely to have heart failure

Heart failure doesn’t always mean your heart stops beating. It may mean your heart is unable to work productively, which impacts you entire body. If every body system isn’t receiving proper blood flow, serious problems occur, such as an excess of fluid build-up in the lungs that makes breathing difficult, and swelling in your legs that can impact mobility. Over time, heart failure will worsen, but with proper diagnosis and early treatment, patients can stop the condition from progressing.

Keep regular checkups

It's important to keep regular checkups so your provider can monitor your heart health and your risk for diabetes. Discuss concerns or health changes so he or she can test you, if needed, for both conditions. Your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, stress levels and weight will also help your physician understand your overall risks. He or she may also make recommendations including:

  • Follow a healthy diet and get moving. As simple as it seems, proper nutrition and exercise can save you from medical complications that can become life-threatening. Plus, you’ll save time and medical expenses which will make you feel lighter in an entirely different way. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains and choose fewer processed foods, sweets and fast food. Swap out water for sugary drinks and reduce your alcohol intake. Add exercise to your routine. Incorporating only 150 minutes of moderate activity a week will help your body control your blood sugar levels, which impacts diabetes and lowers the risk of heart disease.
  • Advanced Testing with HMH’s Cardiac Nuclear Medicine. At Howard Memorial Hospital, we're proud to feature a number of improvements to our cardiac nuclear medicine, including a dual head gamma camera, and same day echocardiograms for a smoother, more convenient patient experience. To learn more about the resources right here to help maintain—or regain—your heart health, visit 
  • See Your Diabetes Educator—The Only American Diabetes Association-Recognized Educator in the Region is Right Here at HMH. Howard Memorial Hospital has advanced diabetes education to help you manage and avoid diabetes. Find support, solutions and learn about the latest advances to manage diabetes and improve your heart health as well. Learn more about our expert care plans at the advantages of a diabetes educator at:

Take diabetes and your heart health seriously; learn about the many ways in which providers at HMH can help you regain your health—and help make our community—full of healthier, happier people.

Posted in:  Cardiology, Health