Discover how diabetes and heart failure are connected, and learn what you can do to protect your heart and overall health.

As you read this, more than 37 million Americans are living with diabetes, the vast majority of whom are managing the Type 2 form of the disease. We know that people with diabetes (PWDs) are at higher risk for related severe health complications, including kidney disease, diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), and cardiovascular disease.

When it comes to the heart, however, both medical professionals and those managing diabetes have traditionally focused on atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, which includes stroke and peripheral vascular disease. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), it turns out that heart failure is also a prevalent complication of diabetes, as highlighted in a July 2022 article published in Diabetes Care. The article points out that upwards of 22% of all individuals with diabetes experience heart failure, and this number appears to be on the rise. Additionally, people with Type 2 diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop heart failure than those without the disease.

Considering that incidents of diabetes are trending the wrong way, with an increase of 30% internationally over the past decade, heart failure will likely be a growing concern among PWDs, as well as for healthcare providers in the years ahead.

What is Heart Failure?

The term is somewhat of a misnomer. You might think that “heart failure” means the heart is no longer functioning, but this is not the case. Heart failure means that the heart is no longer working as efficiently or pumping blood as well as it should. When this happens, the body and its organs cannot get the blood and oxygen they need to function correctly. Heart failure means the heart muscles cannot keep up with the body's workload.

The Link Between Diabetes and Heart Failure

Unlike many complications related to diabetes, heart failure appears to have a bi-directional connection. In other words, it works both ways. Having diabetes increases the risk of experiencing heart failure. Likewise, someone who suffers from heart failure is more likely to develop diabetes.

How Diabetes Leads To Heart Failure

People with diabetes, mainly when blood sugar is elevated for more extended periods, can experience damage to their blood vessels. These vessels might thicken, harden, or become blocked by fatty deposits. This can cause the heart muscle to stiffen or even enlarge and thicken, directly impacting the heart’s ability to move blood and oxygen throughout the body. Eventually, the condition worsens to a heart failure diagnosis.

How Heart Failure Leads To Diabetes

Many of the risk factors and comorbidities associated with the onset of Type 2 diabetes can also contribute to heart failure. These include elevated glucose levels, high blood pressure, and an elevated body mass index (obesity). So, many people who suffer from heart disease are already on the path to developing diabetes. When the heart fails to work correctly, it can speed up the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

How To Mitigate Your Risk Of Both

The connection between diabetes and heart failure is a complicated one. Indeed, developing both diseases puts you at risk for worse clinical outcomes than having only one of the two diseases, including more hospitalizations, more emergency room visits, and, generally, worse overall health.

On the positive side, however, because these two diseases are so intricately linked, the steps you can take to prevent or, at the very least, improve outcomes for both conditions are similar. In other words, what’s good for improving diabetes care is also suitable for reducing the risk of heart failure.

– Lose excess weight

– Eat healthy and limit sodium intake

– Don’t smoke

– Take any medications prescribed by your doctors on schedule

– Exercise regularly according to your physician’s guidelines

Managing Your Diabetes

This shouldn’t come as any surprise to you, but if you already have diabetes, the best thing you can do to lower your risk of heart failure, not to mention a host of other health complications, is to keep your blood sugar under control.

While data suggests people with diabetes have a greater risk for heart failure than those without the disease, even if blood sugar is well managed and other heart-related problems such as hypertension and coronary artery disease haven’t presented themselves, nothing will do more to mitigate your risk than maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

This means regularly testing blood glucose levels using a glucose meter and test strips or a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM); adhering to any doctor-prescribed medication schedules; eating a healthy low-carb, low-fat diet; and getting in your 150 minutes of physical activity each week as recommended by the ADA.

If you have difficulty maintaining blood sugar control, it’s time to sit down with your diabetes physician and care team to see what steps can be taken to regain control. Don’t allow poor diabetes management to progress. Your health and heart depend on proper self-care.


Diabetes and heart failure may not have a direct causal relationship; however, ask any qualified medical professional, and they’ll tell you that a connection has undoubtedly been established. Remember, both conditions are impacted by positive self-management, So if you have diabetes, the better you control it, the less you risk developing heart failure. Conversely, if you already have heart failure, the choices you make can help reduce the risk of adding diabetes to your list of concerns. If you have both, the lifestyle changes you make and the degree to which you manage each condition are even more essential to overall health.

Do you have any additional insights on personal experiences with diabetes and heart failure? Share them with our readers below. Thanks, and stay healthy!


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