Heart Disease and Diabetes

Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two to four times higher than adults without diabetes. Diabetes can change the chemical makeup of substances in the blood, which can cause blood vessels to narrow or to clog up. This is called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, and diabetes seems to speed it up, according to the American Diabetes Association. As you get older, your risk for atherosclerosis increases.

A diagnosis of diabetes as an adult presents the same risk as already having one heart attack, according to the American Diabetes Association. And this is an increasing problem for older Americans. Diabetics over 65 are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than their non-diabetic peers, according to a study in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

Here are some factors that may explain links to diabetes and CVD among the elderly:

  • Age: Older age is a risk factor for heart disease. About four of every five deaths due to heart disease occur in people older than 65, according to the Texas Heart Institute. The incidence of diabetes also increases with age.

  • Blood pressure: About 70 percent of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease. Blood pressure tends to increase with age, according to the American Heart Association -- in fact, more than half of the Americans over 65 have high blood pressure.

  • Sedentary lifestyle: Older Americans are more likely to have lower physical activity, which puts them at risk for both CVD and diabetes.

  • Depression: Depression, common among the elderly, has been associated with smoking, non-adherence to medications and an unhealthy diet. These are risk factors for both CVD and diabetes as well.

  • Economic disadvantages: People on a fixed income may be more likely to skip medical appointments and less likely to spend money on medications.

Helpful Resources:

National Diabetes Education Program

American Diabetes Association

Texas Heart Institute

American Heart Association

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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