1st Person

Type 2 Diabetes AND Heart Failure

Diabetes and heart disease often come in combination and seem to accelerate the progression of both chronic conditions

Similar Underlying Causes?

What if the same things that cause heart failure are the things that cause type 2 diabetes?

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin. Exactly why this happens is unknown, although genetics and environmental factors, such as being overweight and inactive, seem to be contributing factors. — Type 2 Diabetes – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic Jan 9, 2019

The same family of issues

Genetics, obesity, waist size, and stress all seem to be contributing factors to both diabetes and heart disease. 

Diabetes and Heart Failure are Linked

If you have type 2 diabetes, whatever your blood touches, will be affected. Nothing is touched more than the heart. Yes – the disease will affect your skin, your nervous system, your vision, all of your internal organs, but most of all – it will affect your heart. See more.

Certain Recipe for Heart Failure

Diabetes is tied to the blood system, and unchecked high glucose levels is a certain recipe for congestive heart failure.

People who have elevated blood sugar levels are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart failure than someone without diabetes. 

Heart failure, a condition in which the heart fails to efficiently pump oxygenated blood through the body, also is a risk factor for diabetes.

Staggering Statistic

Nearly 70% of people with type 2 diabetes show signs of heart function loss within 5 years of diagnosis, and up to 50% of people with type 2 diabetes may develop heart failure.’ — Penn Medicine

What Are We To Do? 

Here is my shortlist of what to do:

  • Take it seriously. Denial only increases the odds of bad things happening to you. See Denying Your Diabetes; A State of Madness.
  • Get your blood sugar level down to normal (80-120) AND your A1c under 5.4 
  • Avail yourself of modern dietary evidence showing the value of a seriously reduced carbohydrate diet. 
  • If a cardiologist is not the center of your medical resource team – at least try to ensure that a cardiologist is on the team – BEFORE heart problems start. For example, does your cardiologist approve of your taking metformin?

My Own Experience

One of the problems I have, as a writer, is the same problem I have as a lay pastor: I get emotional about things that matter to me. 

As a type 2 diabetic, with a highly active lifestyle, a strong heart, and, seemingly zero symptoms – as numerous tests pointed out – I was ‘suddenly’ admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery (not a heart issue). But was found to exhibit heart arrhythmia and needed a pacemaker before the emergency surgery could be handled. 

Now – 12 months later – I am doing well ( hiking about 2 miles/day and increasing distance and reducing time, plus an improving workout with barbells). But – yes, I am diagnosed with congestive heart failure. 

It was a shock, to me – to go from what seemed to be above average health, and younger than my years, to suddenly being an “old” man, and quite frail, at that. During this past year (hallelujah) – I have gotten my sugars under vastly improved control, my A1c down to 5.4, and went down 4 sizes in trousers and 2 sizes in shirt However, that congestive heart failure tag is still with me. 

Do You Have Undiagnosed Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the often overlooked byproduct of diabetes. 

The health care community speaks primarily to the issues of vision loss (retinopathy); Nerve/Kidney loss (neuropathy) and does not seem to focus on heart disease.

How can you tell if you may have undiagnosed heart failure issues? 

For me, the first clue was “cankles” (ankles that are, without other cause, suddenly FAT).  EDEMA is the name for the failure of the heart to pump enough blood to clear the body of excess water. 

Other common clues are problems breathing when you lay down at night to sleep and have trouble breathing when walking or exercising.

You need to have a medical specialist listen to your heart with a stethoscope. The sounds, to a trained ear, are immediately identifiable. 

One thing for sure: you better take seriously any adverse changes to your body. The faster you start a regimen of positive change, the better the outcomes. 

Possible Symptoms

The Mayo Clinic identifies many possible symptoms of heart failure. Some of the most notable include: 

  • Shortness of breath during exertion or when you lie down 
  • Fatigue and weakness as a regular thing, even with only normal activity. 
  • Swelling in your legs, ankles, and feet, and very rapid weight gain 
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat 
  • Coughing up pink, foamy mucus 
  • Chest pain during routine activities 

They note that it is especially important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience chest pain, severe fatigue or weakness, rapid or irregular heartbeats associated with shortness of breath or fainting, or sudden, severe shortness of breath especially if it is associated with coughing up pink, foamy mucus. 

Similar Causes, Similar Solutions

If you have diabetes and have NOT YET been diagnosed with heart disease, you should do the same thing as if you have been diagnosed: GET YOUR SUGARS UNDER CONTROL

Diet Not Drugs

Diets work quickly – they are low cost, and have virtually none of the kick-back of drugs. 

While drugs are widely prescribed, they have little, long-term, evidence-based research, to show either effectiveness or long-term safety. 

I am not telling you to use or not use drugs, but a healthy diet that reduces your carbs seriously reduces the number of drugs you need (remember, your disease is “insulin resistance”, not excessively high glucose level (that is a symptom). 

One problem with insulin is that too much is not a good thing. 

  • Some believe that treating type 2 diabetes with additional insulin, is akin to treating an alcoholic with whiskey. 
  • This article is not intended to address that conflict, but your medical team will be ecstatic (as you will be) if you use a healthy diet to get your sugars levels to normal levels. 

Sugar Control is Everything

Get your sugars under control, BEFORE heart problems strike. Once heart issues arise, a healthy glucose level, alone, will not fully restore you. (resource)

Positive sugar levels will help your overall condition, but the goal is to avoid heart complications in the 1st place. 

If you have been denying your diabetes, realize that recognition is the first step to action. 

  • Start right this moment to live a healthier lifestyle. 
  • Control your sugar levels, rid yourself of excess poundage (especially the waistline).
  • Enjoy a regimen of alternating aerobic and anaerobic exercise of at least 30 minutes daily. 
  • Finally: ENJOY what life offers you, and what you offer to those around you. 

Jason is a retired business consultant. Today he pursues philosophy and writes political and social commentary. He is a student of ‘Why we think what we think’. Jason can be reached by email at [email protected]

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