Summer  2011
Diabetes and Heart Disease: Risky Business

Research shows that having diabetes puts one at increased risk for developing heart disease. But what about the other way around: Can heart disease increase one’s risk for developing diabetes?

“Nearly two-thirds of our patients who come in with a heart attack have overt diabetes or borderline diabetes,” says Bridgeport Hospital Chief of Cardiology Stuart Zarich, MD. “Typically patients develop diabetes first and then heart disease. Sometimes diabetes may be present, but has not been previously diagnosed.”

Heart attacks also create tremendous stress on the body. “That stress can be the tipping point to diabetes in someone who has pre-diabetes,” explains registered nurse Donna Hansen, a certified diabetes educator with Bridgeport Hospital’s Diabetes Education Center.

Rising Rates

Rates of diabetes are soaring among people of all ages as obesity rates continue to climb. Chances are, you already know someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 185,000 people in Connecticut alone have been diagnosed with diabetes, with another 55,000 unaware they have the disease. In adults, type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90–95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Nationally, as obesity rates continue to soar among children and young adults, it is estimated that one in three people living in the United States born after 2000 will develop diabetes.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Insulin is needed to carry sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream into the cells. When too much sugar (glucose) stays in the bloodstream it not only increases the risk of heart disease, it can also cause nerve, kidney and eye damage (including impaired vision), foot problems (which sometimes result in amputation) and skin and mouth conditions.

Lowering Your Risk

Surprisingly—or maybe not—the ways to lower your risk of developing diabetes and the ways to lower your risk of another cardiac event are similar: reach and stay at a weight appropriate for your height and age, get 30-60 minutes of physical activity a day and eat foods that are low in fats, cholesterol, salt and sugar.

If you have diabetes, you can control and/or dramatically reduce or delay complications through nutrition, exercise, medication and close medical and personal supervision. Getting in good physical shape by losing just 5–7% of your total body weight (for example, a weight loss of 10–14 lbs. if you weigh 200 lbs.) is the cornerstone to preventing and taking care of diabetes.

Who Can Help?

If you develop diabetes, you and your team of healthcare providers can keep it under control. Basic diabetes management skills can be overwhelming at first. There is a lot to learn, but many professionals are available to help you learn what you need to know. It is important that you understand how to monitor your blood sugar, what you should eat, how much you should exercise, how to take your medications, how to treat high and low blood sugar and how to handle sick days.

Healthcare providers who can help include:

Primary Care Physician. A doctor who diagnoses and manages your diabetes and helps coordinate your care.

Endocrinologist. A physician who specializes in diabetes and other endocrine disorders.

Certified Diabetes Educator. A healthcare professional who is qualified to develop a customized food plan to meet your needs and teach you how to take care of yourself to maintain optimal blood sugar levels. Bridgeport Hospital’s Diabetes Education Program has received a Certificate of Recognition from the American Diabetes Association and includes a Registered Nurse and Registered Dietitian who are certified diabetes educators. For information about this program, please call 203-336-7305.

Pharmacist. A professional who helps you understand how to take the medications prescribed by your physician.

Podiatrist. A doctor who specializes in foot care and conducts your annual foot exam.

Ophthalmologist. A doctor who conducts your annual dilated eye exam.

Taking steps to reduce your risk of developing diabetes and/or managing diabetes requires dedication and commitment, but the results are well worth the effort!

What Are Some Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes?
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Increased urination, especially at night
  • Recent weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Tingling/numbness in hands / feet
  • Recurring infections


Who Is Likely to Develop Diabetes?

People at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes are:

  • Over age 45
  • Mostly inactive
  • Overweight or obese

Other factors include a family history of diabetes and birthing a baby weighing more than nine pounds. Research also shows that people of African-American or Latino heritage are at higher risk of developing diabetes.

Need a Doctor?

For a referral to an expert physician affiliated with Bridgeport Hospital, please call us toll free, 24/7, at 1-888-357-2396 or visit