How Diabetes Affects Your Heart and Kidneys | Whittier, CA | PIH Health

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Published on March 31, 2022

How Diabetes Affects Your Heart and Kidneys

Conceptual image of a doctor holding gears representing the human heart, liver, and kidneysWhen you think of systems in your body that are connected, your heart and kidneys may not come to mind. And you may not connect the health of either one to diabetes. That’s why you may be surprised to find out that these three components of your health are all very much intertwined.

Diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes, increases your risk of developing heart and kidney disease. Why does this happen? Because diabetes increases the level of glucose in your bloodstream (blood sugar). If not well-controlled, high blood sugar can damage blood vessels.

  • Kidneys: Your kidneys filter waste and extra fluid from your blood through a series of small blood vessels. High blood sugar can damage these blood vessels. Over time, this can stop your kidneys from filtering blood as well as they should, leading to chronic kidney disease. About 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has kidney disease.
  • Heart: High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels that supply oxygen to your heart and brain. This can cause them to get narrow or clogged, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. If you have diabetes, you’re twice as likely to have heart disease as someone who doesn’t have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, when your kidneys don’t work well, it can put extra stress on your heart, leading to the development of heart disease and/or high blood pressure. Heart disease is very common in people with chronic kidney disease.

If you have diabetes, kidney disease and/or heart disease, here are some tips to stay healthier:

  • Keep your blood sugar in a healthy range
  • Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Follow a healthy, balanced eating plan
  • Exercise regularly, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week
  • Take medications as prescribed
  • Lose weight if you need to
  • Quit smoking
  • Get regular check-ups to monitor your diabetes, as well as your cardiovascular and kidney health

In addition to affecting your heart and kidneys, diabetes may also have an impact on other aspects of your health, including your eyes, feet and nerves. This also has to do with diabetes’ effect on blood vessels. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage blood vessels in your eyes, which can result in vision problems or blindness. It can also damage nerves and limit circulation to your feet, making it harder for sores or infections to heal.

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