People living with diabetes are twice as likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease. In the United States, every 80 seconds an adult with diabetes is hospitalized, and every 2 minutes an adult with diabetes is hospitalized for a stroke. For adults at the age of 60, having Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease shortens life expectancy by an average of 12 years. These are sobering statistics shared by the Know Diabetes by Heart™ initiative which was launched in a shared effort by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The AHA and ADA are working to raise awareness about the connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes and heart disease are often described as “co-morbidities” which means that these diseases usually exist together. Studies show that 75 percent of people with diabetes have high blood pressure, and about 65 percent of deaths in diabetes are from heart disease and stroke. Diabetes is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease is a risk factor for developing diabetes. The connection lies in the effect that each condition has on the blood vessels. High blood pressure puts constant pressure on the blood vessel walls causing damage. In diabetes the constant high blood sugar causes a complicated chemical process which leads to changes in different molecules that lead to harmful deposits within the blood vessel wall. This is an over-simplified explanation, but as the blood vessels becomes damaged, there is increased risk for either of these diseases to be developed.

People living with one or both conditions can take action to reduce their risk of further complications. “As a Certified Diabetes Educator, one of the key things I teach is to make lifestyle changes to control diabetes. Many of these lifestyle changes can also have a positive impact on blood pressure. That is just another connection these two conditions share.” states Lisa Thorp, RN, CDE, Great Plains QIN. “Controlling blood sugar, watching your diet and losing as little as 5-7% or your body weight can make a big difference in managing both diabetes and high blood pressure. Taking medications as prescribed is also a very important aspect of management.”


Lisa Thorp, RN, CDE, Great Plains QIN, teaches individuals how to manage their diabetes.

Thorp also discusses the importance of self-management. “In the diabetes world there is something called ‘SMBG’ which means self-management of blood glucose (blood sugar). It is important for people to monitor and manage their blood sugar. However, not all people with Type 2 diabetes need to test their blood sugar at home. Patients should be encouraged to discuss this with their healthcare provider to determine if this is necessary. In regard to high blood pressure, there is now ‘SMBP’ which means self-monitoring of blood pressure. This simply means monitoring blood pressure at home. Self-monitoring/management should also be discussed with one’s healthcare provider. It is important for patients to have appropriate education on self-monitoring/management guidelines and techniques.” states Thorp.

For more information, visit Know Diabetes by Heart or Million Hearts. Great Plains QIN is partnering with communities, providers, patients and families to improve cardiac health and diabetes care across our region. Click here to learn more.