What is the Relationship Between Diabetes and Heart Disease?
Diabetes and heart disease are two of the most common diseases among adult Americans. While these are two separate diseases, they are often interrelated. Those with diabetes are actually two to four times more likely to also develop heart disease. In addition, those with diabetes are also more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke.
What is diabetes?
Normally, when food is digested, most of the ingredients are broken down into glucose (sugar). The pancreas then produces insulin, which helps this sugar enter the body’s cells and create energy. However, those with diabetes do not have the necessary insulin to merge the sugar with their cells. This leads to sugar build up in the blood and, if poorly managed, can lead to heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, and amputations, among other complications.
Thankfully, those with diabetes are often able to treat and prevent the above complications. There are two types: type 1, which means no insulin is produced in the body, and type 2, which means insulin is not produced or used well. In both types, controlling blood pressure and maintaining proper foot and eye care are crucial. Type 1 is usually managed through insulin injections while type 2 can be treated with various medications, with or without insulin.
However, no matter how much care a diabetes patient dedicates to their disease, it may progress and symptoms can become more difficult to control. End-stage diabetes often means the patient has acquired another illness, such as heart disease, and their life expectancy has been reduced to less than six months. In this case, the added support of hospice care helps a patient manage symptoms and live more comfortably for the time they have left.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease may be used to refer to a plethora of conditions relating to the heart. The most common form is coronary artery disease (CAD), which decreases blood flow to the heart. This often leads to heart failure, arrhythmia (heart palpitations), heart attack, or stroke.
Physical exercise and healthy eating are key components to both prevention and management of heart disease. Once diagnosed, many patients will be prescribed medication to help manage symptoms and prevent the critical conditions listed above.
After some time, those with heart disease may find themselves with heart failure. This is considered end-stage heart disease. Oftentimes, this appears as a cycle in which the patient’s health declines, followed by a period of recovery. Because of this, many patients don’t seek out hospice care even though they would greatly benefit from it.
What is the relationship between diabetes and heart disease?
There is a direct link between diabetes and the development of heart disease. This is often due to high blood glucose from diabetes, which can lead to damage in blood vessels and nerves that control the heart. However, even with glucose levels in check, other conditions caused by diabetes, such as high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol also contribute to the risk of developing heart disease.
Symptoms of diabetes like high blood pressure and high cholesterol also lead to an increased risk for heart attack or stroke. Additionally, those with diabetes often tend to have poor cardiovascular health. Obesity and lack of physical activity are also risk factors for developing heart disease. It’s imperative that those with diabetes eat a healthy diet and remain physically active in order to prevent heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
It’s important to seek medical attention when these two illnesses are combined. Some medications for heart disease may interact with medication for diabetes or contain ingredients like sugars and carbohydrates that may affect blood sugar level in diabetics.
When is hospice appropriate for diabetes and heart disease?
Diabetes by itself usually does not meet the hospice eligibility criteria. Diabetes may lead to hospice when it is simultaneously present with another disease (like heart disease). The patient must have a physician determine that their life expectancy is less than six months, which most often occurs when diabetes has been combined with another life-threatening illness. When there are additional illnesses involved, diabetes symptoms can become difficult to control and the added support of hospice care helps both the patient and family by providing a number of different services that help satisfy their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Those with end-stage heart disease are often candidates for hospice care. Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care’s HeartLink is a disease management program specifically designed to meet the unique needs of patients with end-stage heart disease. With an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, hospice care can mean decreased emergency room visits and hospital readmissions for patients and families.
Whether a patient has one or more of these complicated diseases, Crossroads specializes in providing the necessary support to help patients and their families live the best life possible for all of the time that they have left. For more information about hospice services for diabetes and heart disease, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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