Heart & Vascular Program

Heart Health

Risk Factors: Diabetes

Heart disease is the number one cause of diabetes-related deaths, and heart disease-related deaths are two to four times greater in patients with diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that has no cure. Four to five percent of Canadians are estimated to have diabetes, although the true incidence could double this. Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to either produce enough insulin or respond properly to the insulin that is being produced.

There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetes accounts for only ten per cent of those with diabetes and occurs when the pancreas produces very little insulin or is unable to produce insulin at all. More common is Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes, which usually occurs when the body is not able to effectively use the insulin it produces. It is usually diagnosed later in life and is strongly associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.

People with diabetes should pay particular attention to modifying their other risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as smoking, lack of physical activity and high-fat diets. People who have slightly elevated blood sugar levels but do not have detectable diabetes also have an increased risk of worsening heart problems.

Complications of diabetes include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system disease, amputations, impotence and dental disease.

If you think you might have diabetes or are unsure, see your doctor as it can be diagnosed through a simple blood test. People with diabetes may avoid or delay complications by controlling their blood sugar levels.