One of the most serious complications, however, is the one that deals with the heart. In fact, the leading cause of death by far among diabetics is diabetic heart disease .
That is why endocrinologists are not the only experts you should consult when it comes to managing your diabetes. An interventional cardiologist can also help you manage the condition.
"Diabetes raises the risks of cardiovascular diseases quite a bit," Dr Chiam explains. "Diabetes on its own does 2 things. One, the high blood sugar level predisposes the patient to more artery blockages throughout the body. Two, patients with diabetes tend to have a very bad cholesterol profile, especially the bad cholesterol component, which becomes significantly elevated."
But the risk of cardiovascular diseases is not the only thing diabetics have to worry about. According to Dr Chiam, diabetics who suffer from heart attacks tend to fare much worse and have a lower chance of survival than heart patients without diabetes.
Here are just a few of the ways that an interventional cardiologist can reduce the risk of diabetic heart disease.
For the average person without pre-existing risk factors, SingHealth recommends that your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, be kept lower than 2.6mmol/L. For diabetics, who are already at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiologists can help make sure that number is even lower. "We encourage them to target less than, say, 1.8mmol/L," Dr Chiam says. "We make it stricter because we know that the risk is higher." But 1.8mmol/L is not a number set in stone. Dr Chiam insists that optimal LDL levels can be adjusted on a case-by-case basis.
Speaking of cholesterol, a cardiologist may prescribe diabetics with higher doses of statins, than those prescribed to non-diabetic patients with high cholesterol. Statins are a type of drug, which, according to Dr Chiam, have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and, in turn, the risk of a heart attack. Aspirin, a blood-thinning drug, may also be prescribed in low dosage by a cardiologist to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
A cardiologist may recommend patients with diabetes and heart disease step up their exercise regime, simply because regular exercising prevents high blood pressure and boosts good cholesterol in our body. These are all good things for the heart. And since high blood glucose levels can lead to the accumulation of plaque in your blood vessels, more exercising will, in fact, lower the risk of plaque build-up as well.
Should a diabetic patient experience a heart attack, interventional cardiologists will be on hand to perform angioplasty, which will help open up blocked arteries. But this doesn't just apply to arteries around the heart. Arteries in the legs and feet can become blocked for the same reasons too. This is known as peripheral artery disease, a condition an interventional cardiologist will be able to treat.
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