Health & Wellness

Diabetes Affects Risk for Heart Failure and Heart Failure Progression

Need another reason to manage your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels? Doing so may help keep heart failure at bay or slow its progression.

Diabetes—especially when unmanaged—substantially heightens the chances that heart failure will progress or get worse in people with the very earliest stages of heart failure.

Doctor examining patient with stethoscop

What is Heart Failure?

Heart failure happens when the heart becomes too weak or too stiff, making it hard to pump well enough to meet the body’s demands for oxygen-rich blood. This can leave people feeling short of breath, unusually tired and unable to do the things they used to do without much effort. It can also lead to a dangerous build-up of fluid in the lungs and body.

Unmanaged diabetes appears to play a role in moving people with early stages of heart failure—before symptoms show—to more advanced disease.

Heart Failure and Diabetes

Having an A1C of more than 7% was tied a greater chance of developing later stages of heart failure. For example, people with very early stages of heart failure are 1.5 and 1.8 times more likely to develop later stages of heart failure. Diabetes is also tied to developing heart failure more quickly and at a younger age.

This relationship is still true even after other factors that raise the risk for heart disease are accounted for.

How to Improve Heart Disease in People with Diabetes

Working with a health care team to ensure a diabetes treatment plan is working to reach health targets with an eating plan, physical activity, and medications can prevent or delay heart failure.

Researchers said the key take away is that by managing diabetes, we may be able reduce the number of people who advance to later stages of heart failure. Heart failure can drastically impact one’s quality of life and lifespan. In addition, it remains one of the leading reasons for hospitalizations among people 65 and older.

If you have diabetes, talk with you care team about ways you can protect your heart. Diabetes itself can put you at risk of developing heart failure.

Other common risk factors for heart failure:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Narrowed or blocked arteries, like those that supply blood to the heart, brain, or extremities
  • Not being physically active, i.e., prolonged sitting, not exercising
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Sleep apnea
  • Medications or viruses that can damage the heart

Written by Amanda Crowe

Reference: Echouffo-Tcheugui J, Ndumele C, Zhang S, et al. Diabetes and Progression of Heart Failure. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2022 Jun, 79 (23) 2285–2293.