Heart attack warning: Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor – here’s why

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Heart attacks happen when an artery supplying your heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked. The event is often sudden and dramatic, with symptoms including chest pain that spreads to other areas of the body. The symptoms must be responded to immediately, lest you inflict permanent damage on the heart muscle.

The event itself may unfold rapidly, but the risk factors associated with having a heart attack can develop over many years.

Understanding the risk factors can therefore mitigate your risk of having a heart attack long before you are confronted with one.

Chronic conditions can raise your risk of the deadly event and one of the gravest appears to be type 2 diabetes.

According to new research in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the official journal of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology, more than 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are at high risk of fatal heart disease or stroke within 10 years.

Type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition characterised by inadequate insulin supply and unstable blood sugar levels.

“The most striking result of our study was that the vast majority of patients (93 percent) had a high or very high risk of fatal events within a decade, study author Dr. Manel Mata-Cases, a general practitioner for the Catalan Institute of Health in Sant Adria de Besos, Spain.

He continued: “Half of patients in the very high-risk group had no history of heart disease, meaning they would not be receiving medications to prevent heart attacks and strokes.”

To gather their findings, researchers sifted through the Information System for Research in Primary Care (SIDIAP) database, which is used by all primary health providers in Catalonia, Spain.

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It includes almost 80 percent of the total population there.

According to researchers, the average age of people studied was 70, and a little less than half were female.

The subjects had the following preexisting conditions:

  • 72 percent had high blood pressure
  • 60 percent had high cholesterol
  • 45 percent had obesity
  • 14 percent were current smokers.

Mata-Cases and team found more than half of participants were at very high risk of fatal cardiovascular disease (CVD) within 10 years, with only seven percent having a moderate risk.

What accounts for the link to type 2 diabetes?

“Diabetes causes marked acceleration of atherosclerosis, causing an increase in artery blockages,” Dr. Mark Peterman, interventional cardiologist at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Plano, Texas, told Healthline.

Atherosclerosis is a serious condition whereby arteries become clogged with fatty substances called plaques, or atheroma.

According to Dr Peterman, it can also cause inflammation that makes these blockages unstable in such a way that they can rupture and cause heart attacks or strokes.

How to manage diabetes

The key to controlling type 2 diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range.

There are two key components to blood sugar control – diet and exercise.

According to the NHS, there’s nothing you cannot eat if you have type 2 diabetes, but you’ll have to limit certain foods.

You should:

  • Eat a wide range of foods – including fruit, vegetables and some starchy foods like pasta
  • Keep sugar, fat and salt to a minimum
  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day – do not skip meals.

Physical exercise helps lower your blood sugar level – you should aim for 2.5 hours of activity a week, adds the NHS.

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