Posted on November 04, 2017

Individuals with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those without the disease.

Professor Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra, Chairman of Internal Medicine at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Director of the Qatar Metabolic Institute (QMI), says it is important that the public understand there is a strong link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke. He says individuals must be their own health advocate and make living a healthy lifestyle a priority. “Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. Almost two-thirds of patients with diabetes die from CVD,” says Professor Abou-Samra. “Learning more about the link between heart disease and diabetes can be an important first step towards protecting your heart and better managing your diabetes.”

According to Professor Abou-Samra, it is particularly important that patients with diabetes, and those who are pre-diabetic, are aware of the factors that can put them at increased risk of heart disease and stroke. “The key is the management of blood sugar levels and associated risk factors, particularly smoking, high blood pressure and elevated lipids. Over time, high levels of glucose in the bloodstream and the associated risk factors can damage the arteries. This, combined with a buildup of fatty material on the sides of blood vessels (a condition known as atherosclerosis), can block blood flow to the heart or brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke,” said Professor Abou-Samra.

He went on to say that individuals with diabetes develop cardiovascular disease at a much earlier age than those without the condition, underscoring the importance of identifying one’s risk factors for developing diabetes. Diabetics who smoke, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol or have a family history of cardiovascular disease or stroke are at higher risk.

According to the World Heart Federation, the majority of CVD is caused by risk factors that can be treated. The organization says that 80% of premature deaths from heart disease can be avoided if these risk factors are controlled, a finding Professor Abou-Samra supports. “In addition to receiving effective treatment for diabetes, smoking cessation, blood pressure management and treatment of lipid disorders (cholesterol) are all essential measures in helping to prevent heart disease in patients with diabetes,” says Professor Abou-Samra.

Professor Abou-Samra cautions that patients who have diabetes but have not been diagnosed are at the greatest risk. “It is important to be screened for diabetes as the condition can be present without symptoms. Those who have a family history or are overweight should be screened through a fasted blood test,” said Professor Abou-Samra. In recognition of World Diabetes Day, held annually on 14 November, HMC has planned a full month of activities to highlight the importance of diabetes awareness, education, and research. Find out more about HMC’s diabetes awareness campaign and learn how to access a free diabetes screening in Qatar by visiting