Mention the word “diabetes” and what comes to mind for most people is a disease that necessitates strict dietary restriction against sugar. While this may be true, diabetes is so much more than that. In the Philippines, where prevalence of the disease among adults is recorded at 7.9 percent, a deeper understanding of this chronic health condition is important.
People with diabetes suffer from a condition where the body is unable to make enough insulin or effectively use it to process the sugar (glucose) from the food it consumes and use it for energy. This results in a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream causing blood sugar levels to rise.
“Poorly controlled diabetes over time can cause serious damage to patients’ organs and tissues and lead to more life-threatening health complications such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD),” warns Dr. Bien Matawaran, past president of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and current chief of the Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism of the UST Hospital. “Even more alarming is that 50% of deaths in patients with diabetes are due to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.”
The 2019 CAPTURE global study further proves the prevalence of CVD in people living with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). According to the study, 34.8% of the patients with T2DM have CVD, with 9 out of 10 of these caused by atherosclerosis or the buildup of plaque deposits in blood vessels that narrow the arteries.
One of the risk factors of atherosclerosis is elevated levels of LDL-C (low density lipoprotein cholesterol) also known as bad cholesterol. The presence of high glucose levels in the bloodstream in people with diabetes tends to increase bad cholesterol, and because the LDL particles of diabetics are smaller and denser, it is easier for it to stick to arteries and damage blood vessel walls.
In fact, people with diabetes are prone to developing atherosclerosis earlier and more extensively than those without the disease. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in people with diabetes. “Hence managing cholesterol, among other risk factors, is essential to prevent heart attacks and strokes in patients with diabetes,” stresses Dr. Matawaran.
To do so, Dr. Matawaran encourages patients to observe a healthy and active lifestyle that includes a heart-friendly diet and plenty of exercise. He also adds that aiming for a healthy weight and eliminating vices such as heavy drinking and smoking not only keeps cholesterol levels in check, but even helps in managing one’s diabetes.
“Most importantly, it is advised that diabetic patients regularly consult with their doctor regarding their condition and to be prescribed anti-cholesterol medication,” says Dr. Matawaran. “Given the increased risk of CVD in diabetic patients, especially those with at least 10 years duration of the disease, 50% reduction of bad cholesterol is recommended, regardless of current or baseline levels.”
But aside from the proper health interventions, global healthcare company Viatris also underscores the importance of coordinated efforts to educate for better cholesterol management among patients with diabetes.
“People with diabetes deserve to enjoy their lives to the fullest and at its healthiest,” emphasizes Viatris Philippines Medical Lead Dr. Jermaine Lim. “And this is what we aim to achieve here at Viatris. That by partnering with healthcare professionals on cardiovascular risk reduction and through our BE THERE campaign, we are hoping to help people properly manage their diabetes better and potentially delay serious health complications.”
More than just worrying about sugar, patients need to be on top of all aspects of their health – from managing their cholesterol to taking care of their emotional wellbeing. The good news is that they won’t have to face it alone.
“With Viatris’ BE THERE campaign, patients with diabetes are informed of the CVD risks of diabetes and further encouraged to learn how to properly manage the disease and prevent serious health complications such as heart attacks and strokes. Truly supporting them to be there with their loved ones for the moments that matter most,” concludes Dr. Lim.