Cardiovascular Disease And Diabetes


There is extensive research that suggests that having diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in both men and women. This is because the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as obesity, dyslipidemia, and high blood pressure are common in patients with diabetes mellitus. This means that they have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which can contribute to chronic heart failure, stroke, coronary heart disease, and other disorders of the cardiovascular system.1 Therefore, it is important to stay healthy in order to prevent these risk factors occurring. 

About cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is a term used to describe diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. It is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK. It is often associated with a build-up of fatty deposits inside your arteries as well as an increased risk of blood clots. It can also cause damage to blood vessels in the brain, heart, kidney, and eyes. There are four main types of cardiovascular disease: coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and aortic disease.2

Common risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. In order to prevent these risk factors it is important to maintain a healthy diet and weight, exercise regularly, stop smoking, and cut down on your alcohol intake. If you experience any symptoms of cardiovascular disease, it is important to book an appointment with your primary care doctor right away. 2

About diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease where the body fails to control its blood glucose levels. This includes type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and neonatal diabetes, with type 2 diabetes being the most prevalent form of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes mellitus is an extremely common disease which has only increased in the past 30 years. It is estimated that 591 million people, or 1 out of 10, will have diabetes by 2035. While both type 1 and type 2 make up these statistics, this increase will most likely consist of mainly type 2 diabetes. 1

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune response caused by the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas which leads to the absence or extremely low amounts of insulin. Type 2 diabetes is caused by an imbalance between insulin levels and insulin sensitivity. This leads to your body not being able to respond to insulin normally, also known as insulin resistance, or your body not producing enough insulin to control your blood sugar level. Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes, with around 90% of diabetic adults in the UK having type 2 diabetes.3

Link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Why diabetes affects cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of mortality and morbidity in patients with diabetes. Both cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus share common risk factors and are therefore extensively linked. This means that if you are suffering from diabetes, you are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular death rates are 1.7 times higher among adults with diabetes than those without diabetes.1

High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes mellitus can cause damage to your blood vessels as it builds up in your blood. This build-up can block the blood vessels that carry blood to and from your heart which prevents the heart from getting the oxygen and nutrients it needs. This can cause heart disease and other types of cardiovascular disease.1

How diabetes affects cardiovascular disease


Obesity is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease and is also common in patients with diabetes mellitus, particularly type 2 diabetes. Diabetes and insulin resistance are linked to the overexpression of various cytokines by adipose tissue, also known as your body fat. This means that these cytokines as well as hormones, glycerol, non-esterified fatty acids, and proinflammatory markers increase in obesity patients. The overexpression of these cytokines leads to increased inflammation and a build-up of lipids which has a negative effect on blood vessels and can lead to heart attack, heart disease, and cardiomyopathy. Obesity is also linked with high blood pressure and dyslipidemia which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.4


Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is also common in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus and is one of the most common diseases in the world. It is also a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure is detrimental for patients with diabetes as it is connected with the development of diabetic nephropathy, also known as kidney damage, caused by diabetes. If diabetic nephropathy is not treated, it can progress to nephrotic syndrome and high cholesterol which can also lead to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 1

To prevent high blood pressure, your blood pressure should be below 140/80mmHg if you have diabetes and should be regularly checked by your primary care doctor or healthcare professional.5


Diabetic patients also have an increased risk of developing dyslipidemia, another risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This is because there is an increased release of free fatty-acid found in insulin-resistant fat cells. This increases the production of triglyceride which stimulates the secretion of apolipoprotein B and very LDL cholesterol, or ‘bad’ cholesterol’. High levels of apolipoprotein B and LDL cholesterol have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because high cholesterol can narrow your arteries or cause a blockage which increases the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke which are types of cardiovascular disease.1


In summary, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are closely linked and therefore targeting and preventing risk factors for cardiovascular disease in type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients is vitally important. These risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure and dyslipidemia. Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death in the UK so it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent developing one of these life-threatening diseases. If you feel you have any symptoms of the diseases or conditions mentioned in this article, it is important to book an appointment with your primary care doctor so you can get the treatment you need.2


  1. Leon BM, Maddox TM. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease: Epidemiology, biological mechanisms, treatment recommendations and future research. World J Diabetes [Internet]. 2015 Oct 10 [cited 2022 Dec 9];6(13):1246–58. Available from:
  2. Cardiovascular disease [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Dec 9]. Available from:
  3. Diabetes [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Dec 9]. Available from:
  4. Sharma A, Mittal S, Aggarwal R, Chauhan MK. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease: inter-relation of risk factors and treatment. Future Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences [Internet]. 2020 Dec 9 [cited 2022 Dec 9];6(1):130. Available from:
  5. Diabetes and blood pressure [Internet]. Diabetes UK. [cited 2022 Dec 9]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Suad Mussa

Bachelor of Science – BSc, Biology. Queen Mary University of London

Suad Mussa is a biology graduate with a strong passion for medical writing and educating the public about health and wellbeing.

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