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Diabetes and Its Effect on the Heart and Blood Vessels

Clip Number: 11 of 41
Presentation: Common Heart Conditions, Tests, and Procedures
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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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One of the biggest problems for people with diabetes is trouble with their heart and blood vessels.
Normally, your heart pumps blood to large blood vessels called arteries. In the heart these are called "coronary arteries". The blood, which is carrying oxygen, travels through the arteries until they turn into small blood vessels called capillaries. In the capillaries, the oxygen leaves the blood and enters your cells. Other blood vessels, called veins, then carry blood back to the heart.
But over time, diabetes can damage the inside of blood vessels including the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain and heart. This damage allows a waxy, fatty substance called plaque to build up. Over time, this plaque can narrow or even block the arteries.
When an artery in the heart or brain becomes narrowed or blocked with plaque, it's harder for enough blood and oxygen to get to the cells. In the heart, this can lead to a heart attack. In the brain, a stroke.
In fact, people with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack as someone who does not have diabetes.
Many people with diabetes also have both high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. This puts them at an even greater risk for heart attack or stroke.
Although diabetes can hurt your heart and blood vessels, there are many ways to keep them healthy and in good shape.

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