The Connection Between Diabetes, Autoimmunity and the Heart

Heart disease prevention for diabetics

February is all about the heart. But I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day with all the love notes, chocolates, and flowers. I’m talking about February as American Heart Month, and the actual heart that is beating in your chest right now. We all need to be a little more mindful of our heart because – while it gives us life, if we don’t take care of it – it can lead to some extremely serious health issues.

With that in mind, let’s take the opportunity this American Heart Month to bring attention to some lesser-known facts about heart disease and its indirect link to autoimmune disease. Heart disease has maintained its ranking as the leading cause of death in the United States for the past several decades. While we often associate high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking as some of the most common factors leading to cardiovascular complications, there are actually hundreds of varying risk factors that can lead to heart disease, including an entirely different disease: diabetes.

Over the years, medical research has linked several diseases as being immune-mediated long after after the original discovery of such diseases; one prime example is diabetes. And, while this discovery was made nearly 40 years ago, many people are still unaware that all types of diabetes can have an autoimmune component.

With that in mind, and as we make our way from diabetes to autoimmunity to heart health, let’s examine how diabetes is linked to heart disease. Caused by a hardening of the arteries or a blocking of the blood vessels that go to your heart, people with diabetes are more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than those without. In fact, two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke, also classified as cardiovascular disease.

Autoimmune diabetes is caused when the body’s immune system begins attacking the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. When insulin levels are down, the amount of glucose in the blood increases over time. High blood glucose levels can damage nerves and leads to increased deposits of fatty materials on the insides of the blood vessels. Complications such as poor blood flow, decreased oxygen in the blood stream, and the clogging and hardening of blood vessels can ultimately lead to two types of cardiovascular disease: coronary artery disease – responsible for heart attacks or failure – and cerebral vascular disease – which leads to strokes.

diabetes

Now that we’ve made the connection between diabetes, autoimmune disease and heart disease, what measures can diabetics take to help prevent heart attacks and control autoimmune reactivity? Prevention of heart attacks for diabetics is parallel to that of non-diabetics, but with one very important additional measure – monitoring and regulating your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical lab that specializes in functional immunology and autoimmunity, offers the Array 6 – Diabetes Autoimmune Reactivity Screen. Array 6 assists in the early detection of autoimmune processes of Type 1 Diabetes, impaired blood sugar metabolism and Metabolic Syndrome, and also monitors the effectiveness of related treatment protocols.

American Heart Month may not have special cards to commemorate the date, and you don’t need to make a reservation at a fancy restaurant to celebrate. However, like virtually everything heart and overall health-related, knowledge is essential to both treatment and prevention. Recognizing February as American Heart Month and taking steps to understand and ensure your own heart health is as important as any celebration you’ll have this month.

So, make a visit to your general doctor, cardiologist or any other specialists you see to manage your health. Proper administration of medications can be vital to prevention of heart disease. In addition to insulin injections for diabetics, medications are available to aid in important health measures like regulating blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol, which are all incredibly important when looking at the prevention and management of heart disease. This February, have a happy and healthy American Heart Month!

 

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