Diabetic Cardiomyopathy: Being Aware and Knowing the Facts

Having diabetes can mean that patients are potentially more at risk of suffering from other illnesses, such as stroke and heart disease. Of those who have symptoms of the latter, a moreserious yet little discussed problem is called diabetic cardiomyopathy. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of this condition and to be aware of how it can affect you.

What is Diabetic Cardiomyopathy?

This condition, put in simple terms, is the enlargement of the lower ventricle of the heart chamber itself. The illness exhibits similar symptoms to those of heart failure. However, more often than not, in people who suffer from diabetes, there may not be any sign of high blood pressure at all. Sometimes, there are no symptoms of the condition at all until it is in a very advanced state, and even then, it is still very treatable.

When someone is diagnosed as diabetic, it can affect many of the major organs in the body. Over time, the chambers or ventricles of the heart can become hardened or stiffened, which makes it harder for it to pump blood efficiently and effectively through the body. The condition affects those who suffer from both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Complications Relating to Diabetes are on the Rise

Unfortunately, as cases and incidences of diabetes increase, so do other health problems. Current estimates show that around seventy five percent of all people who suffer from either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes will die from heart problems associated with the condition.

Diabetic cardiomyopathy is also becoming more common and is starting to appear more in patients who have been or are being tested for suspected pre-diabetes. It can sometimes be found in urine when initial tests are taking place to see whether diabetes is present. A protein called albumin and its levels can determine whether or not a patient will suffer from diabetic cardiomyopathy or not.

Are There Signs and Symptoms to Look For?

In many cases, signs and symptoms are not present until the condition is in an advanced stage, but typically a patient might experience a lot of fatigue, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. They may even experience problems like palpitations after exertion and exercise, or after doing normal day-to-day tasks. Some patients may also find they retain water or have a buildup of fluid in their extremities, like their hands and feet, particularly the ankles, or even in the lower part of the abdomen or chest. In cases where fluid is in the chest, the sufferer might have a persistent chesty cough and congestion which they find hard to shift. Alongside this, there may be a feeling of pressure and fullness too. There may be occasional chest pain which passes after rest.

How Can We Help Ourselves If We Have This Condition?

It is important to state that if you have diabetes and are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, that you seek medical help as soon as possible. More often than not, there is another simpler explanation for why you might feel unwell, but it is always better to be safe and get checked.

Some scientists and doctors have put forward a case to suggest that medications more commonly used to control cholesterol and are known as Statins may be useful to help with diabetic cardiomyopathy, but trials and studies are still only in the early stages, and it is not known how or what long term effect they may have on the condition. If you've been diagnosed, there are a range of other medicines that may be used to treat the condition and they are as follows:

Beta Blockers: Which are used to slow down the heart rate, reduce any anxiety symptoms, and help to lower blood pressure if it is on the high side.

ACE Inhibitors: These will help to lower blood pressure and keep the blood flowing freely through the body.

Water tablets: Help with any swelling of the extremities and excess fluid that may be present in the body.

Anticoagulants: A type of medicine that will help to stop blood clots from forming and may help break down small ones in people who are suffering from cardiomyopathy.

On a positive note, there are many people who do not need any treatment for Diabetic Cardiomyopathy at all, they can control it purely though monitoring of their blood sugar, good diet, and regular exercise, just as many patients who are suffering from heart disease are advised to do. For anyone suffering with diabetes, the main issue seems to be getting a good control over your blood sugar levels to prevent the symptoms from getting any worse. This means making sure that the body doesn’t go into hypoglycaemic mode at all and making sure that diet is properly controlled and at all times.

The use of gentle to moderate physical exercise is also recommended after consultation with a doctor; precautions should be taken to make sure the heart is still allowed to have a work out, but that a certain number of beats per minute is not exceeded. This will all be dependent on the level of the condition and the overall health of the patient. Whilst diabetic cardiomyopathy is a serious condition, it can be kept in check with the patient allowed to live a normal life for as long as possible.


Thanks to Claire Burton for this guest post!


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