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Jun 20, 2019

Experts Provide Guidance on Managing Diabetes and Heart Failure

Treating diabetes and heart failure together should be handled differently than managing each condition alone.

Treating diabetes and heart failure together is very different than treating each condition alone, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and Heart Failure Society of America. The statement was recently published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, and addresses what we know about these chronic conditions, which often go hand in hand.

Diabetes and heart failure are two common chronic diseases that affect a growing number of Americans each year. Type 2 diabetes, which occurs when the body doesn’t process blood sugar properly, is the most common form of diabetes. It currently affects an estimated 29 million U.S. adults and can cause a number of serious complications, including heart failure.

Heart failure, which affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans, occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Since heart failure is also a risk factor for diabetes, many patients develop both conditions, which further complicates their health. Experts worry that we haven’t done enough to study and address both conditions together instead of treating them separately.

The key takeaways from the recent statement are the importance of prevention, integrated treatment, and the need for further research.

As authors explain, we know that type 2 diabetes increases risk for heart failure and vice versa. Once patients with one condition develop the other, their quality of life and survival can worsen. For that reason, working closely with patients with diabetes or heart failure to prevent complications is a must. Typically, that means making healthy lifestyle choices like eating healthy, staying active, and maintaining a healthy weight. It may also mean managing any existing heart conditions and taking medications to reduce risk of complications.

But once a patient has already developed both heart failure and diabetes, providers should work together to address both conditions together, according to experts. That may include a combination of primary care doctors, specialists and community workers, depending on the unique needs of each patient. And the goal of this integrated care is to engage patients, family and providers to optimize both quality and quantity of life.

However, we still have a lot to learn about treating heart failure and diabetes together. Experts note that there are many unanswered questions about disease management strategies. Therefore, authors encourage more clinical trials to better understand which medications work best in patients with both conditions and which treatment strategies help improve outcomes and quality of life.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce any insulin—a hormone that converts sugar into energy. This type of diabetes is often diagnosed in children and young adults and cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes, however, occurs when the body resists insulin or does not produce enough insulin, and can be prevented in some patients.
  • What is heart failure?

  • Heart failure occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to the rest of the body. Although there is no cure for heart failure, treatments such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs can help improve outcomes as well as quality of life.

Infographic: Heart Failure

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