If a patient’s diabetes is controlled, why would it still be considered a risk for heart disease?

What if this person is a type II diabetic and controls the condition with exercise and diet?

In type II diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin. The problem isn’t insulin production; it’s what the body does with it—or actually, doesn’t do with it.

The hormone insulin’s job is to shuttle blood sugar to muscle cells to fuel them.

On muscle cells are receptor sites for the insulin, where the blood sugar (glucose) is supposed to be handed over. But this process is impaired in the type II diabetic.

You’d think that controlling type II diabetes with diet and exercise would be sufficient to eliminate this metabolic illness as a risk factor for heart disease.

“Yes, diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease, even when individuals are active and managing their diabetes, says Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with over 10 years of experience in various community and clinical settings.

“Generally, there is more vascular disease in diabetes because endothelial function (lining tissue of the blood vessels) is altered in ways that accelerate atherosclerotic change in the body.”

That means plaque buildup in the coronary arteries.

Massey continues, “Diabetes can also lead to increased stiffness of the arterial walls (this is primarily associated with chronic high blood glucose levels).”

So now you see why, if blood sugar is always controlled, diabetes is still a risk factor for heart disease, due to non-optimal function of blood vessel linings.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you do not have diabetes, then lifestyle choices will go a long way at preventing type 2 diabetes.

To help protect your heart from disease, you must take measures to prevent type 2 diabetes.

These include limiting processed food, filling up on lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and a challenging regimen of aerobic and weightlifting exercise.

And of course — losing weight if you’re overweight.

Alison Massey has been working in the field of nutrition since 2010 helping individuals make sustainable changes to improve their health.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/ Brian A Jackson