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Guide to Diabetes

Heart Problems /disease

The heart acts as a pump to push the blood round the body and ensure that all parts of the body have a healthy blood supply and nutrients. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. Heart disease is more common in people with diabetes than the general population. There are many risk factors that are linked to heart disease in both men and women with or without diabetes

Diabetes and Heart Problems 


Heart problems are common and a major cause of ill health. People with diabetes are up to four (4) times more at risk of:

  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) when the vessels are hardened due to fatty deposits,
  • Strokes
  • Circulatory problems,
  • Angina
  • Heart attack (aka Myocardial Infarction)
  • Ishcaemic Heart Disease (Lack of blood supply)
  • Heart Failure


What increase the risk of heart disease?


  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

  • High blood glucose levels (Hyperglycaemia)

  • High cholesterol (blood fat)

  • Being overweight

  • Smoking


How can I reduce the risk?

It is particularly important that you try to reduce the risk by making the necessary changes such as losing weight, giving up smoking, doing exercise, reducing the amount of saturated fat and salt in the diet, eat more fruit and vegetables and trying to maintain target cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Your diabetes team will help you to do this as part of the annual review.



Exercise is beneficial for a healthy heart in both people with or without diabetes. The recommendations are that you take at least thirty minutes of exercise that increases your heart rate 5 times per week. see our Sport, Exercise and Activity section

1. How Does Diabetes Affect The Circulation?

Diabetes can cause problems with the flow of blood through the body. High levels of  blood glucose in the blood means:


  • Blood is‘sticky’ and cells can clump and stick together.

  • The way that fat is metabolised (broken down) is affected.
  • Likely to have high levels of cholesterol (fats in the blood)..if your diabetes control is poor

Cholesterol are small bits of fat that circulate around your body, if you have too much of the “bad” cholesterol Low Density Lipid (LDL), it is very sticky and tends to build up in fatty deposits inside your blood vessels, Triglycerides contribute to atherosclerosis (plaque) in the vessels, making it difficult for your blood to flow round your body. More on Cholesterol


2. Coronory Heart Disease (CHD)


This is when there is a narrowing and / or blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries. The combination of sticky blood and fat causes an increase in the level of fatty deposits laid down in the vessel. (i.e. plaques and atheroma on the inside walls of blood vessels). The atheroma or plaque causes the vessels to become narrowed and inflexible or blocked. This is known as ATHEROSCLEROSIS: A disease of the arteries in which fatty plaques develop on their inner walls with eventual obstruction of blood flow.

Mild CHD, has no symptoms but as the narrowing of the artery increases and less blood is delivered to the heart muscle you may feel an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, dull ache known as Angina occur. Detailed explanations CHD and Angina  ActivateYour Heart Website

Your HEART has to work harder to push blood through these vessels which in turn causes blood pressure to increase.


3. Heart Attacks( Myocardial Infarction)


In general obstruction to your blood flow due to Diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, and lack of blood supply can further contribute to CHD and other conditions,

Infarction means the death of a muscle, tissue or organ as a result of a blockage of the blood supply to it. Usually caused by disease of the arteries, and narrowing of the vessels. Cigarette smoking can narrow and harden vessels also. Detailed explanation of Heart Attacks link to ActivateYourHeart Website

4. Ischamic Heart Disease


Damage to the heart muscle can be caused by a shortage of blood that is rich in oxygen. If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked an area of the heart muscle will become starved of oxygen rich blood and can cause heart attacks
Smoking significantly increases risk of heart and blood vessels problems. this is because there is not enough oxygen carriers in the blood supplying to the muscles that require them. Detailed explanation of Ischaemic Heart Disease link to YourHeart Website

5. Heart Failure


It develops as a result of damage to the heart muscle. The heart loses the ability to pump blood effectively around the rest of the body.
Damage to the heart muscle can occur following a heart attack or coronary artery disease also strain and pressure from persistent high blood pressure, Which will narrow and hardenthe blood vessels further. Detailed explanation of Heart Failure link to YourHeart Website


6. High Blood Pressure

As well as hardening and narrowing of the hearts blood vessels, High blood pressure can cause leaking of small blood vessels affecting the eyes, kidneys and feet

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