Having heart failure or diabetes alone is worrisome enough, but diabetes and heart failure often exist together, and the connection between diabetes and heart failure is nothing new. The good news is researchers and physicians understand the link much better now, which is leading to better treatment options.
A study in the journal “Circulation Research” finds Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a global epidemic and is expected to affect over 592 million people worldwide by 2035. And on top of that, patients with diabetes mellitus have more than two times the risk for developing heart failure. Heart problems, hospitalizations and prognosis are also worse for patients with diabetes mellitus than for those without.
Let’s take a look at why diabetes and heart failure do typically exist together and what you can do about it.
Why Diabetes and Heart Failure Exist Together
Heart failure creates a domino effect of health problems. The stress that comes with the condition triggers the sympathetic nervous system to activate a cellular aging signal called p53. It’s a protein that functions as a tumor suppressor. It can prevent the development of cancer. However, if it is activated constantly, it can increase the risk of inflammation, cancer and certain age-related diseases, including heart disease.
This signal will eventually cause problems like:
- Systemic insulin resistance
- Inflammation in fat tissue
- Deterioration of heart function
Researchers discovered this in 2012 when they took a closer look at why heart failure leads to diabetes. The results of the study appeared in the January 2012 issue of the journal “Cell Metabolism.” At the time, the study’s lead author thought the findings cleared a path to find a way to break this vicious metabolic cycle.
In earlier studies, the same research group discovered that stress-induced or age-related accumulation of the p53 signal in the heart can lead to heart failure, and extra calories and aging can induce p53 in fat tissue.
Now, it appears that the activation of p53 in the heart can also activate p53 in fat tissue. The interaction of the p53 signals in the heart and fat tissue accelerates the development of age-related diseases. In order to prevent this from happening, a treatment method can be developed to block the inflammation that results from the activation of p53, without compromising its abilities to fight tumors.
Dealing with Diabetes and Heart Failure
There are several treatment options for heart disease in those with diabetes, including:
- Exercise not only for weight loss but to improve blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and to decrease abdominal fat, a risk factor of heart disease.
A recent study found that when the two diseases are considered individually, heart failure has a much poorer prognosis than diabetes mellitus; therefore, heart failure has to be a priority for treatment in patients presenting with the two conditions, and the diabetic patient with heart failure should be managed by the heart failure team.
According to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the Heart Failure Society of America (published in the journal “Circulation”) new treatments for diabetes may also improve heart failure outcomes.
The statement summarizes what's known about the inner workings of diabetes and heart failure and the best ways to treat the conditions when they occur simultaneously. It also encourages clinicians to coordinate the care and treatment of patients who have both diabetes and heart failure in "a thoughtful and cohesive way."
Remember that different medications will present different risks, so the best way to prevent heart disease is to take good care of your heart and your diabetes. If you need help getting started, download our new interactive infographic on diabetes. It provides the information you need to take the first step to becoming a healthier you.