Diabetes Increases Heart Disease & Stroke Risk at All Ages

People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease or to have a stroke as people who do not have diabetes.  Both of those conditions sound like something that will happen later in life.  But these risks are not limited to middle age and beyond.

Research from the SEARCH CVD Study shows that adolescents and young adults with diabetes are also at increased risk for heart attacks or strokes.

Diabetes is a condition that results when excess sugar, which is also known as glucose, builds up in the blood.  The body needs insulin to move glucose out of the blood into the cells where it provides energy.  In diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells are not able to use the insulin correctly to access glucose.  When glucose is left in the blood, it eventually causes damage to small blood vessels and can contribute to the buildup of fatty material on the inside walls of the blood vessels.  These deposits can restrict the flow of blood and can make the blood vessels harder, which is known as atherosclerosis.

Strokes occur when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted. If you have diabetes, you are much more likely to have a stroke or other blood vessel issue because of the excess sugar in your blood which damages the small blood vessels.

Researchers in the SEARCH CVD Study, which is a collaborative effort between scientists at the Colorado School of Public Health and the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, determined that adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes also have atherosclerosis in the carotid arteries.  This means the arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain are thicker and stiffer than normal, which puts these patients at increased risk of strokes and heart disease.  This is believed to be the first study to examine these risk factors in young people with type 1 diabetes.

If you have type 1 diabetes, there are things you can do to help keep your heart and blood vessels healthy:

  • Control blood glucose – Keep your sugar level as close as possible to your target.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods – Eat foods that are low in saturated fat and high in fiber.
  • Cholesterol – Get your cholesterol and triglyceride numbers on target.
  • Weight – Try to maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Exercise.
  • Don’t smoke.

Talk to your health care provider about your risk factors for heart disease and stroke and work with him to put together a plan to reduce your risks.  There are medications available to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol if diet and exercise are not effective. If you have any symptoms of heart attack or stroke, get emergency treatment immediately to limit the possible damage to your heart or brain.


 Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com




Science Daily. Young People With Type 1 Diabetes at Risk for Heart Disease, Research Shows. Web. February 13, 2012.





American Diabetes Association. Living With Diabetes: Stroke. Web. February 13, 2012.




National Diabetes Information Clearinhouse. Diabetes, heart Disease, and Stroke. Web. February 13, 2012.




Mayo Clinic. Coronary Artery Disease. Web. February 13, 2012.



Reviewed on February 15, 2012

by Maryann Gromisch, RN

Edited by Jody Smith

Tags: diabetes research,Diabetes and stroke,diabetes and heart disease,diabetes and atherosclerosis

Category: Prevention,Featured Articles