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At the heart of the matter

Everyone thinks of February as the month of Valentine’s Day, but let’s not forget it’s also Heart Month!

A few quick facts

  1.  Half of the people living with diabetes are unaware of their risk of heart disease.
  2. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to suffer from heart disease or a stroke compared to non-diabetic adults.
  3. Two-thirds of adults living with diabetes have high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
  4.  When blood sugar is too high, it can damage blood vessels and coronary arteries.
  5.  You can greatly reduce the risks of heart disease by making changes to your lifestyle and diet.

Recognizing the symptoms to respond better

Whether or not you’re at risk of having a heart attack or stroke, it’s important to know how to spot the warning signs so you can get help—or help someone else—quickly. Please note that the following symptoms are not exhaustive and can vary from one person to another. Women, for example, may experience less severe symptoms than men. However, this doesn’t mean that the heart attack or stroke is less serious. When in doubt, call 911.

Symptoms of a heart attack

  •  Pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest which lasts several minutes or comes and goes; pressure, tightness, a clamping sensation, heaviness or gradual pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body such as the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  •  Shortness of breath, sometimes preceding chest discomfort.
  •  Cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Symptoms of a stroke

  •  Numbness in the face, arms or legs, often on one side of the body.
  •  Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  •  Difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes.
  •  Dizziness, trouble walking, loss of balance or lack of coordination.
  •  Major headache for no apparent reason.

In conclusion

The risk of heart disease is real for people living with diabetes—but that doesn’t mean it’s unavoidable. You can greatly reduce it by taking adequate measures and focusing on prevention. Being well informed helps you stay safe. Happy Heart Month!
For more information, see the For a healthy heart! capsule.

  1. American Heart Association, “Warning Signs of Heart Attack, Stroke and Cardiac Arrest”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  2. American Heart Association, “Cardiovascular Disease & Diabetes”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  3. Canadian Diabetes Association, “Heart Health”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  5. Diabète Québec, “Glossaire”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  6. Heart & Stroke Foundation, “Diabetes”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  7. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, “No pressure: lower your blood pressure risks”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  8. Public Health Agency of Canada, “How Do I Know if I’m Having a Heart Attack?”: Accessed January 9, 2015.
  9. Public Health Agency of Canada, “The Big Risk of Diabetes: Heart Disease”: Accessed January 9, 2015.


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