A Bad Traffic Jam – explaining the correlation between diabetes and cardiovascular diseases

By Lola Cunico, RN, BS, CDE

During this American Diabetes Month, I wanted to share my thoughts on one way that healthcare professionals can explain to patients the correlation between diabetes and heart disease.

People who have type 2 diabetes usually have more than one condition that can add to the risk of cardiovascular disease, for example, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. These are a few that are included in the bundle of a diagnosis called “metabolic syndrome.”

I like to explain to patients that metabolic syndrome is like a bad traffic jam that is caused by many factors. I let them know it is a combination of a traffic jam caused by angry agitated drivers, road construction and merging lanes that can all lead to a disaster if no one takes control and manages the flow of traffic.

When our blood sugars are high, our blood is more viscous than it should be causing everything to slow down like congested traffic. Then you can picture high cholesterol as all those orange barrels during a construction zone building up on different corners, causing the flow of traffic to slow down. Then you see a merge lane sign: 3 lanes of traffic become 1 lane. That is what high blood pressure can do to your arteries; it constricts and adds pressure. If all this isn’t managed, it can become a disaster leading to cardiovascular disease.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused fear, confusion, and loneliness, so now is the time for HCPs to reach out to people with diabetes with needed support. Educators can help in this time of change to guide patients to learn more about the correlation between diabetes and heart disease. Education is all about timing and the time is now to help patients learn how to manage their disease.

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