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Diabetes

Many patients with heart failure are diagnosed with type II Diabetes. This is not surprising as Diabetes is far more common in heart failure patients than in the rest of the population. As with any other medical condition, the better you understand it, the better you will be able to manage it smoothly.

You have a diagnosis of Diabetes when you have too much glucose in your blood because the production of insulin by the pancreas is inadequate to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose enters your blood when your body absorbs sugar and breaks down the carbohydrates of food and beverage. Insulin is necessary to help glucose to enter the cells and be used for energy. Type I Diabetes occurs in younger patients and insulin treatment is always necessary. Patients with type II Diabetes still produce insulin but the production is inadequate. Type II diabetes occurs frequently in patients with heart failure, especially if they are overweight or obese.

Glycaemia (sugar in your blood) is part of the routine blood tests patients with heart failure have which will detect diabetes. If you are at risk of Diabetes and are informed about the diagnosis, you will have HbA1c measured (HbA1c is your average blood glucose levels for the last two to three months).

There are many important lifestyle adjustments that you can do to help yourself manage your diabetes successfully. Some things you may already do as a heart failure patient – such as taking a walk every day, measuring your blood pressure, and maintaining your desired weight are especially important. Regular exercise helps reduce your blood glucose levels. You will be asked to do certain other things also, such as measuring your blood glucose levels, adjusting your diet and carefully watching the amount of sugar or carbohydrates you eat. Carbohydrates are a kind of “sugar” found in some foods, like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes.

Your doctor or nurse will give you all the practical information you need regarding how to measure glucose levels and how often this should be done. Advice about diet and nutrition should be given by your doctor, nurse, or dietician. You may sometimes have doubts regarding what you can eat. Remember to write your questions down and bring them to your appointments.

There are some relatively common medical complications that may occur during chronic Diabetes. Your health care professional will routinely check your kidney function, your eyes, and your feet for signs of vascular problems such as ulcers. It is important that any complications are diagnosed and treated early to prevent progression.

All of this may feel overwhelming at first, but with time you will be more confident, and it will become easier. Treatment for diabetes usually involves a combination of diet and medication. There are very effective drugs for patients with diabetes. Some patients will also require some insulin injections in addition. You should not be afraid that the medication you are taking for one condition may be bad for the other. Most drugs used for heart failure can be used in patients with diabetes safely, with the same benefits. Also, there are drugs for Diabetes that can be used safely in heart failure patients. At present there are in fact several newer drugs that treat both conditions.

In some countries, Heart Failure and Diabetes are not treated by the same medical team. If this is the case, do not forget to let both teams know about your other diagnosis and all the medication you are taking. It is always useful to keep an updated written list of all the medications you are currently using.

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