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Diabetes Qualified

Do your clients need a heart-to-heart?

Do your clients need a heart-to-heart?

Written by Carolien Koreneff, CDE-RN

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Australia; it kills one person every 30 minutes. For people living with diabetes the risks of cardiovascular disease are much higher. In fact, people with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease1. Interestingly though research shows that only 12 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes think they are personally at risk of developing heart disease.

The increased risk of developing heart disease in people living with diabetes occurs because having diabetes can change the chemical makeup of some of the substances found in the blood. This can lead to a narrowing or complete blockage of blood vessels through the build-up of plaque, even if lipid (blood fat) levels are normal.

High blood pressure can put further strain on the heart and therefore people with diabetes are often recommended to take blood pressure lowering medications, often in combination with cholesterol lowering medication, even if their blood pressure is in the target range.

Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death for people living with type 2 diabetes? Research also shows that around two-thirds of all deaths in people with diabetes was attributed to heart disease.2

The main risk factors for developing heart disease are

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Other medical conditions
  • Lifestyle choices particularly due to an unhealthy diet, excessive alcohol use, physical inactivity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having a family history of heart disease

Reducing the risk for heart disease

Did you know that 1-3% of Australian adults living with type 2 diabetes experience a heart attack every year?3 And did you know that almost two-thirds of people with type 2 diabetes self-report some form of cardiovascular disease?4 Read more here.

Unfortunately, what a lot of people with diabetes don’t seem to know is that there are actions they can take to reduce their risk of heart disease. These include:

  • Being physically active
  • Making healthy food choices
  • Reducing the intake of saturated fats, trans fat, salt/sodium and alcohol
  • Keeping blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides in the target range
  • Managing high blood pressure
  • Reducing weight if above the healthy weight range
  • Don’t smoke
  • Regular check-ups

It is time to have a heart-to-heart conversation with your clients.

Take Diabetes 2 Heart campaign

Many Australians with type 2 diabetes are in a bad relationship with their heart but, there are ways they can reduce their risk of heart disease. The Take Diabetes 2 Heart campaign is an initiative by Diabetes Australia to raise awareness of the link between type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The campaign encourages people to have a heart-to-heart with their loved ones about their risks and to see their GP; it is about inspiring people with diabetes, and those who love them, to take positive steps to better heart health.

Download the Heart of the Matter factsheets to give to your clients or find out more at https://takediabetes2heart.com.au/.


  1. Haffner, S., Lehto, S., Rönnemaa, T., Pyörälä, K. and Laakso, M. (1998). Mortality from Coronary Heart Disease in Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes and in Nondiabetic Subjects with and without Prior Myocardial Infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, 339(4), pp.229-234.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2017. Deaths among people with diabetes in Australia, 2009–2014. Cat. no. CVD 79. Canberra: AIHW.
  3. Shaw, P., Thomas, P. and Magliano, A. (2018). The Dark Heart of Type 2 Diabetes. [online] Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute. Available at: https://www.baker.edu.au/-/media/documents/impact/Baker-Institute-The-dark-heart-of-type-2-diabetes.ashx?la=en [Accessed 20 April 2023].
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15. 2015; Available from: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/4364.0.55.0012014-15?OpenDocument.
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, Causes of Death 2016, ABS cat. no. 3303.0, September.