By Annie Hauser
People with a family history of diabetes or who are an ethnicity with a higher risk for the disease might be more susceptible to heart damage than other people with type 2 diabetes, a new study in Diabetes Care finds.
This is a significant finding because adults with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to get heart disease than people without the condition — while heart disease kills two-thirds of all type 2 diabetics over age 65, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health calculated a genetic predisposition score, which analyzed 36 well-established independent genes that increase a person's diabetes risk, for 2,322 adults. Of the participants, 677 had heart disease. For every additional diabetes-risk gene, a person's risk of heart disease went up by 3 percent.
Genetic risk factors were also linked to higher levels of hemoglobin A1C, which is an important marker of diabetes control. (Higher levels of hemoglobin A1C indicate more poorly controlled diabetes.)
Protect Your Heart With Diabetes
Heart-health risks are so high for people with diabetes because elevated blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels to become thicker and narrower, making it harder for blood to flow freely. As the heart works harder to pump blood, it wears down.
Try these strategies to protect your heart:
Tightly control your blood sugar. It's easier said than done, but working to keep blood sugar levels under control through regular monitoring, diet, and exercise is the best thing you can do to ward off diabetes-related heart disease.
Monitor cholesterol. High cholesterol is a heart disease risk factor for all people, so controlling bad LDL cholesterol is especially important for people with diabetes. Adopt a cholesterol-friendly diet and check with your doctor to see if further action, such as medication, needs to be taken.
Quit smoking. It's no secret that smoking seriously harms your heart by narrowing arteries, compounding the narrowing already caused by diabetes.