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People with Diabetes Should Take Heart

January 29, 2013

Washington Hospital Seminar Focuses on Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

If you have diabetes, you are at serious risk for heart disease. In fact, people with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease as those who don't have diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition, heart attacks in people with diabetes are more serious and more likely to result in death.

"We treat people with diabetes as seriously as someone who has already had a heart attack even if they haven't," said Dr. Ash Jain, a cardiologist and medical director of Washington Hospital's Cardio Vascular Services Program. "Diabetes damages the small and large arteries in the body, which increases the risk for heart disease and other complications."

He will talk about ways to prevent heart disease at an upcoming seminar titled "Protecting Your Heart," scheduled for Thursday, February 7, from 7 to 8 p.m. The seminar is part of Washington Hospital's free monthly Diabetes Matters education series and will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), in Fremont.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is not able to use it properly. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. When this process doesn't work properly, glucose (sugar) levels in the blood can get too high.
Complex Processes

Dr. Jain will explain how diabetes can lead to heart disease. He said several complex processes within the body work together to significantly increase the risk for heart disease, including atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity.

High levels of glucose in the blood causes atherosclerosis, a process in which fatty deposits know as plaque builds up in the arteries, causing them to narrow over time. This narrowing restricts the flow of blood to the heart.

High blood pressure also damages the arteries over time, making them more susceptible to the plaque rupture, buildup, and narrowing associated with atherosclerosis. High blood cholesterol causes fatty deposits to build up on the artery walls.

Obesity leads to certain metabolic changes that contribute to diabetes and heart disease, Dr. Jain said. Obesity can cause insulin resistance, which raises blood glucose levels. Also, more fat tissue in the body makes the heart work harder because it has to pump more blood through additional blood vessels, causing blood pressure to increase.

Controlling Risk Factors

Dr. Jain will offer tips for reducing the risk of developing heart disease. He will talk about some of the medications that are available today to control these risk factors.

"We have to aggressively treat high cholesterol and high blood pressure in people with diabetes," he added. "Lifestyle modifications are also critical and can help to reduce the need for medications."

Dr. Jain said a proper diet can help to keep blood glucose levels and other risk factors under control. He said it's important to stick to a heart healthy meal plan that is low in carbohydrates, salt, and fat and high in fiber and lean protein. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting plenty of physical activity, and reducing daily stress levels are also key to preventing heart disease.

"It takes a lot of motivation to make these lifestyle changes," he added. "But the payoff is great."

Dr. Jain will also discuss the importance of diagnosing heart disease early. He said heart disease typically develops at a younger age in people with diabetes, so it's necessary to start looking for blockages in the arteries much earlier. He will explain some of procedures available to diagnose and treat these blockages.

"Preventing heart disease requires a holistic approach," Jain said. "You have to keep risk factors under control while aggressively monitoring changes in the body that could lead to heart disease."

To learn more about Diabetes Matters and other diabetes programs at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes. For information about the Heart Program, visit www.whhs.com/heart.