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Meet Lynn Berriger who was hit by a heart attack

Cardiovascular disease and heart disease: What’s the difference?

Are cardiovascular disease and heart disease the same thing? In short, no - cardiovascular disease is an umbrella term for conditions that affect the heart (cardio) or blood vessels (vascular) and covers all heart and circulatory diseases3, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack 
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Vascular dementia

Heart disease is another broad term used to describe a range of disorders affecting your heart, and these include4

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Congenital heart disease

There’s a strong correlation between both cardiovascular disease and diabetes and heart disease and diabetes1,2,5. In both, blood vessels narrow and the amount of oxygen-rich blood reaching the body’s vital organs is severely reduced5.

The blood pressure rises, and your heart must work harder to move blood around the body. Over time, this can cause lasting damage to the heart, resulting in cardiovascular disease5.

Managing diabetes and heart disease risks through lifestyle

How to lower your heart disease risk
3 min. read

How to lower your heart disease risk

Managing your type 2 diabetes can also lower your risk of heart disease. Learn what you can do for both.

Is type 2 diabetes putting you at risk of heart disease?
3 min. read

Is type 2 diabetes putting you at risk of heart disease?

If you have read this blog post, you will know of the connection between type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Doctors may not know everything about type 2 diabetes – including how to cure it – but they do know how to treat the symptoms effectively.

What is the correlation between type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease?

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have established risk factors for cardiovascular disease6.

You’ll likely already be familiar with the symptoms of type 2 diabetes, and this knowledge will come in handy when exploring the correlation between type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

As a quick refresher, note that type 2 diabetes causes high glucose levels in the bloodstream7. This can quickly lead to the damaging of blood vessel walls, an increase in fatty materials and the reduction of blood flow. This kind of build-up can starve the heart of oxygen and nutrition, potentially resulting in severe heart conditions, strokes, and high blood pressure5,8.

Symptoms of cardiovascular heart disease to look out for as a patient with type 2 diabetes can include9:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain, weakness, or numb legs and/or arms
  • Breathlessness
  • Very fast or slow heartbeat, or palpitations
  • Feeling dizzy/ lightheaded or faint
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen limbs

Diabetes and strokes 

Uncontrolled blood sugar levels in people with diabetes damage the walls of the blood vessels, speeding up a process called atherosclerosis, which can lead to strokes. People with diabetes also tend to have high levels of the types of fats in their blood that get turned into plaques, another contributor to strokes8. Diabetes stroke symptoms include10:

  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding
  • Trouble talking
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or trouble walking
  • Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes
  • Double vision
  • Severe headache

Although post-stroke patients with diabetes are predisposed to a slower recovery of function, diabetes stroke recovery is possible11. A successful recovery requires the brain to remap sensorimotor functions within the brain network12.

Preventing cardiovascular disease & reducing risk

When it comes to managing cardiovascular disease, preventative efforts are key13. Patients with type 2 diabetes should turn to medication, lifestyle changes and risk factor interventions to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease14. Note, every condition is different and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease will require a different approach from person to person.  

If you have any type of diabetes (type 1, type 2, gestational, adolescent) you should pay close attention to your lifestyle habits. Lifestyle factors that promote narrowing or clogging of blood vessels, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, include:

High cholesterol

Clinical evidence shows that a cholesterol level reduction may lower the mortality rate from cardiovascular disease15.

Eating unhealthy food

A nutritionally limited or poor diet can lead to high blood pressure. Try to reduce your daily sodium intake16.


Smoking is a significant risk factor for strokes17. Tobacco is known to damage and narrow blood vessels17.


Drinking too much alcohol

Studies have indicated a positive correlation between cardiovascular disease and alcohol consumption above recommended limits18.


There is also a positive correlation between the reduction of body fat and insulin sensitivity. Addressing weight loss (physical activity is one of many options) is key to achieving steady blood sugar levels19

how to prevent CVD

Exercising more, eating a balanced diet to lose weight, and cutting out bad habits like excessive drinking and smoking are all great ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease15-19

While lifestyle changes are important for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, it’s also imperative that you continue to monitor blood sugar level carefully and manage your medication13,14.

Read more about diabetes, how to live with diabetes and treatment of diabetes 

About diabetes

About diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a complex chronic disease that occurs when the body cannot make enough insulin⁷. In contrast, type 1 diabetes is a lifelong disease that affects the body’s ability to convert glucose from food into energy.  Read more about diabetes in general here⁷. 

Living with diabetes

Living with diabetes

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be overwhelming at first. We have gathered articles and tips to help you manage your type of diabetes – ranging from diet and exercise to tips and recipes.

Treatment of diabetes
1 min. read

Treatment of diabetes

People living with type 2 diabetes need treatment to keep their insulin and blood sugar levels under control¹⁴. This can help prevent long-term complications. Read more about treating type 2 diabetes as well as managing it through lifestyle and diet here⁷.


  1. Martín-Timón I, Sevillano-Collantes C, Segura-Galindo A, et al. Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease: Have all risk factors the same strength? World J Diabetes. 2014;5:444-470. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v5.i4.444
  2. Lüscher TF, Creager MA, Beckman JA, et al. Diabetes and vascular disease: pathophysiology, clinical consequences, and medical therapy: Part II. Circulation. 2003;108:1655-1661. doi: 10.1161/01.Cir.0000089189.70578.E2
  3. NHS England. Cardiovascular disease (CVD). Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/clinical-policy/cvd/. Last accessed: January 2024. 
  4. WebMD. Heart Disease: Types, Causes, and Symptoms. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/heart-disease-types-causes-symptoms. Last accessed: January 2024.  
  5. Diabetes UK. Diabetes and Heart Disease. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/cardiovascular_disease Last accessed: January 2024. 
  6. Lee YB, Han K, Kim B, et al. Risk of early mortality and cardiovascular disease in type 1 diabetes: a comparison with type 2 diabetes, a nationwide study. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2019;18:157. doi: 10.1186/s12933-019-0953-7
  7. International Diabetes Federation. IDF Diabetes Atlas (10th edition). Available at: https://diabetesatlas.org/ Last accessed: January 2024. 
  8. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Atherosclerosis. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atherosclerosis. Last accessed: January 2024. 
  9. British Heart Foundation. Cardiovascular Disease Symptoms. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/conditions/cardiovascular-heart-disease. Last accessed: January 2024. 
  10. American Diabetes Association. Stroke. Available from: https://diabetes.org/about-diabetes/complications/stroke. Last accessed: January 2024. 
  11. Hankey GJ, Spiesser J, Hakimi Z, et al. Rate, degree, and predictors of recovery from disability following ischemic stroke. Neurology. 2007;68:1583-1587. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000260967.77422.97
  12. Bolognini N, Russo C, Edwards DJ. The sensory side of post-stroke motor rehabilitation. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2016;34:571-586. doi: 10.3233/rnn-150606
  13. Committee ADAPP. 10. Cardiovascular Disease and Risk Management: Standards of Care in Diabetes—2024. Diabetes Care. 2023;47:S179-S218. doi: 10.2337/dc24-S010
  14. Committee ADAPP. 9. Pharmacologic Approaches to Glycemic Treatment: Standards of Care in Diabetes—2024. Diabetes Care. 2023;47:S158-S178. doi: 10.2337/dc24-S009
  15. Jeong SM, Choi S, Kim K, et al. Effect of Change in Total Cholesterol Levels on Cardiovascular Disease Among Young Adults. J Am Heart Assoc. 2018;7. doi: 10.1161/jaha.118.008819
  16. Drenjančević-Perić I, Jelaković B, Lombard JH, et al. High-salt diet and hypertension: focus on the renin-angiotensin system. Kidney Blood Press Res. 2011;34:1-11. doi: 10.1159/000320387
  17. Gallucci G, Tartarone A, Lerose R, Lalinga AV, Capobianco AM. Cardiovascular risk of smoking and benefits of smoking cessation. J Thorac Dis. 2020;12:3866-3876. doi: 10.21037/jtd.2020.02.47
  18. Mukamal KJ, Chen CM, Rao SR, et al. Alcohol consumption and cardiovascular mortality among U.S. adults, 1987 to 2002. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010;55:1328-1335. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2009.10.056
  19. Venkatasamy VV, Pericherla S, Manthuruthil S, et al. Effect of Physical activity on Insulin Resistance, Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Diabetes Mellitus. J Clin Diagn Res. 2013;7:1764-1766. doi: 10.7860/jcdr/2013/6518.3306