Normally the body uses a hormone called insulin to help sugar move from the blood into the cells. However if the body doesn’t make enough insulin or the insulin doesn’t work properly, your blood sugar levels go too high and diabetes can develop.
There are two types of diabetes:
How is diabetes linked to heart disease and stroke?
Those who have Type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke than people who do not have diabetes.
Women with diabetes have an increased risk.
In particular, women with diabetes may lose the normal protection they have from heart disease before the menopause. Women with diabetes have a four to six-fold increase in the risk of developing heart disease, whereas men with diabetes have a two-to-three fold increase in risk.
Other risk factors
When diabetes is associated with other risk factors such as a high blood cholesterol level, high blood pressure and smoking, the risk of heart attack and stroke is high. Keeping blood sugar levels controlled will help to protect your heart health.
Symptoms can include:
Type 1 diabetes comes on suddenly with very high blood sugar levels; but if you have Type 2 diabetes, you might have had some of these symptoms but thought that they were due to other ailments.
These symptoms may also be present if your diabetes is not controlled and if this happens you should speak to your family doctor.
Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in adulthood. Many factors can influence the chances of you developing this type of diabetes, such as:
The good news is that by taking steps to protect yourself against heart disease and stroke such as regular physical activity, healthy eating, keeping to a healthy weight and not smoking, you will also reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is managed by daily insulin injections.
If you have diabetes, you may also need to take a medicine to lower your cholesterol level and to help protect your heart.
The Irish Heart Foundation offers a range of free support services to those affected by heart disease or stroke that can greatly improve their quality of life. These include support groups, physical exercise classes, therapy sessions and more.
For more information on these supports, see our Patient Supports page.
If you have any questions about heart disease or stroke, you can also call the Irish Heart Foundation’s Nurse Support on (01) 668 5001 to speak to a nurse specialist who will answer your questions, and give you guidance and reassurance.