People who have diabetes are at two- to four-times greater risk of having heart failure compared to individuals without diabetes. This is according to a study published in the American College of Cardiology, and reported by multiple other studies.
Why the link?
“Diabetes predisposes you to coronary artery disease. So you can have heart-related damage due to heart attack. When that damage occurs, your heart function goes down and that can result in heart failure immediately or over time,” said Dr. Charles McCauley, a cardiologist at Marshfield Clinic Health System and director of the System’s Heart Failure Improvement Clinic.
People with diabetes naturally have some impairment with their metabolism, which the body uses to make energy from food. Those with diabetes also are often insulin resistant. These factors can cause damage to the heart muscle, which can contribute to developing heart failure.
“These metabolic issues can cause fibrosis in the heart muscle, which over time can mean the heart muscle just isn’t strong enough to properly function anymore,” McCauley said. “These issues intertwine and just become too much for your heart and body to handle. That’s why the five-year survival rate for diabetics with heart failure is 12.5 percent. That’s how serious this is.”
Prevention is the best medicine
McCauley said it’s easy for people to put off making the needed lifestyle changes to avoid getting diabetes. Once you have diabetes, it can be very difficult to reduce the damage the disease does. The best approach, McCauley said, is to be proactive now in building healthy diet and lifestyle habits.
“It’s like rust on your car. It’s very hard to reverse once that process starts,” McCauley said.
It is possible for people with diabetes to change their lifestyle and no longer have diabetes, but heart failure is a progressive disease. Once you have it, it cannot be cured, only managed, McCauley said.
The Heart Failure Improvement Clinic at Marshfield Clinic Health System has achieved noteworthy outcomes for patients with heart failure by taking a novel approach to care. This program uses telehealth visits so that patients can talk with their provider from the comfort of home if they have any questions about medications, symptoms and more. This helps patients get fast and expert answers without having to travel for an office visit.
Patients enrolled in this program experience the following advantages versus those not enrolled:
- 19% decrease in the rate of inpatient hospitalizations
- 17% decrease in the rate of ER visits
- 18% decrease in the rate of inpatient readmissions
- 52% decrease in 12-month mortality rate.
If you have questions about diabetes or your heart health, talk with your provider.