You may know that diabetes increases the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke.
But you may not know that research links diabetes to a higher risk of cardiomyopathy: thickening, stiffening and other changes in the heart muscle that limit the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body.
Cardiomyopathy develops as a result of blockages in the small and large vessels of the heart. Although doctors can detect and treat it, cardiovascular disease remains a major cause of mortality for people with diabetes. In fact, heart disease or stroke claim the lives of two out of three people with diabetes.
So it’s good to understand what causes cardiomyopathy, what its symptoms are, how to reduce your risk, and what treatments are available.
Diabetes can cause changes in the body and the heart over time.
Those who don’t manage their diabetes well may experience long periods of high blood sugar, which damages blood vessels and nerves. In addition, obesity — often a factor in type 2 diabetes — strains the heart. Researchers link both issues to three reactions that take a toll on your body:
Over time, these responses by your body may cause heart problems, including cardiomyopathy.
If you keep your A1C levels regularly below 7, you can dramatically reduce your chances of heart-related complications.
It’s important to watch for signs of cardiomyopathy so that you can seek treatment quickly. The condition can occur even when diabetes is well-controlled, so see your doctor if you notice:
Screening for cardiomyopathy usually involves an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), which provides a detailed picture of the heart.
If you do have cardiomyopathy, talk with your doctor about treatment options. It’s important to follow his or her suggestions to reduce your chances of heart failure. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend:
The best advice is to follow the tips to avoid complications and watch for signs of trouble. Your doctor also can help you monitor your condition.