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Can Blood Sugar Affect Heart Rate?

Living with diabetes is challenging. If we leave it unchecked, high sugar levels can make the blood as sticky as syrup, making normal blood flow through vessels difficult. This can do some serious harm along the way. The damage is like how a river carves out a canyon.

Our heart is not immune to this onslaught either. Increased sugar levels raise the heart rate by putting more stress on the heart’s blood vessels. Over time, this can lead to heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Scientists thus often say that diabetes goes hand in hand with heart disease.

But do not worry. This article explores the link between blood sugar and heart rate. We will also offer practical tips for improving heart health with diabetes. Let’s dive in!

Recent Research about Diabetes and Heart Problems

Several recent systematic reviews have shown that people with diabetes are more likely than those without to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other risk factors for heart disease. [1-4]

Diabetic patients are 2-4 times more likely to have a heart attack and 4-6 times more likely to experience heart failure than their non-diabetic counterparts. They also develop heart problems at a younger age. [1, 2]

A 2018 study reported that heart disease affects about one-third of people with type 2 diabetes. And it is the cause of nearly half of all deaths among these people. [3]

A massive 2019 study of over 12 million individuals revealed that women with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart failure than men. So, it is super important to monitor our heart health closely. [4]


How Does Diabetes Affect Our Circulatory System?

Diabetes can affect our circulatory system by damaging blood flow to our heart. This damage is like how constant flooding erodes a riverbank and fills the river with sediment.

When blood sugar levels are consistently high, the blood becomes more viscous due to the sugar buildup. This can cause the walls of blood vessels to thicken and stiffen, making them more likely to clot. As a result, it becomes difficult for the blood to flow smoothly to the heart and other organs. The heart gets less oxygen than it needs for optimal functioning. So, it then starts working harder, leading to an increase in heart rate. It’s similar to a water pump compensating for a clogged pipe. [5]

Diabetes also harms the nerves that control heart rate and blood pressure. This disruption can lead to several problems, including an irregular heartbeat and a slower heart rate. [6]

Can Blood Sugar Affect My Heart Rate?

Yes, as explained above, blood sugar can affect your heart rate. High blood sugar levels can cause a buildup of plaque in our arteries. Over time, this buildup limits the normal blood flow to our heart, brain, and other organs. The heart then starts pumping faster to compensate for the slower blood flow. This can lead to an increase in heart rate.

However, even if your blood sugar dips too low, you can still have a faster heart rate. Why? Because this condition gets your body into panic mode. In response, it releases a hormone called adrenaline to combat stress. It’s like your body’s own alarm bell. This hormone makes your heart beat faster, similar to how a deer bolts when it senses danger. [5-7]


Is Increased Heart Rate a Sign of Diabetes?

No, a faster heart rate is not a direct sign of diabetes. Many things can make our heart beat faster, like working out, feeling stressed, or having a fever.

However, if the heart keeps beating fast for a while, it might be a sign of health problems that diabetes can cause, like heart disease. If it comes with other symptoms of diabetes, such as frequent urination, increased thirst, and unexplained weight loss, it is time to get a diabetes check.

In simple terms, a faster heart rate is much like the warning light of a car. It cannot tell what is wrong but signals that something is off under the hood. So, if someone’s heart rate remains high for some time, it would be wise to see a doctor.

Tips to Improve My Heart’s Health with Diabetes

Living with diabetes means taking extra responsibilities to ensure optimal heart health. Here are some practical steps we can take to keep the heart in top shape:

  • Eat Right. Just like a car, food is fuel for our bodies. And they thrive on the right food. Aim for a balanced diet packed with heart-friendly foods. Such diets often include lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. These foods may not just help regulate blood sugar levels but also can protect the heart.
  • Stay Active. Engage in regular exercise or physical activities. Being physically active boosts blood circulation and strengthens muscles; both can improve our heart health. Whether it is walking, jogging, cycling, or just having some fun outdoors, make sure to stay active regularly. Think of it as giving the heart a daily tune-up.
  • Watch Your Weight. Being overweight is not good for your heart and blood sugar. Excess belly fat correlates with insulin issues. Shedding even a bit of body weight (5-10%) can help. It will lower your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure. The first step is focusing on staying active. That’s a step towards better health, even without weight loss.
  • Do Regular Check-Ups. Regular medical check-ups can help spot potential heart issues early, allowing for timely interventions. It’s like getting your car checked every so often to avoid sudden breakdowns.
  • Avoid Smoking. In a recent China-based study, researchers found that smoking worsened the risks of heart disease for diabetic people. Heavy smokers with diabetes are at even higher risks of heart attacks, strokes, or other cardiac events. So, for optimal heart health, you should quit smoking at all costs. [8]
  • Do Not Skip Your Meds. Always take your diabetes pills as your doctor prescribes. This will not only help keep your blood sugar in check but also prevent plaque buildup in your arteries.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can Diabetes Cause Stroke or Chest Pain?

Yes, diabetic people are at a higher risk of both stroke and chest pain. In fact, they have double the risk of having a heart disease than normal individuals. This increased risk is largely due to high blood sugar damaging our blood vessels. [1, 2]

Diabetes has a domino effect on cardiac events. A stroke occurs when a clot blocks an artery in the brain, causing brain cells to die. Chest pain, or angina, is a symptom of coronary artery disease. It happens due to a narrowing of arteries supplying blood to the heart. [9]

Can Insulin Cause Heart Problems?

No, insulin itself cannot cause heart problems. But when you have diabetes, your body becomes resistant to insulin. So, it then needs more insulin to convert glucose into energy. When this happens, glucose builds up in your blood. This buildup can, over time, damage your heart. [10]

When to See a Doctor?

If you have diabetes and are concerned about your heart health, do not hesitate to see a doctor. In fact, you should consult a doctor right away if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting

Final Thoughts

Living with diabetes means one should take extra care to protect their heart health. They can reduce the risk of developing heart disease by:

  • Keeping their blood sugar levels stable
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising regularly

If your heart health concerns you, take immediate medical help. Remember, your doctor is just a call away!


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