How Does Diabetes Cause Atherosclerosis?

Diabetes is known to cause a series of complications in the human body. It is a difficult condition and these complications caused due to diabetes make the disease even more difficult to manage. In today’s article, we shall learn more about one such condition called atherosclerosis caused due to inflammation and the disruption of blood vessels hindering the smooth flow of blood in different body parts. So, come and join in for the article “How Does Diabetes Cause Atherosclerosis?

Table of Contents

What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries become very narrow. The reason for the same is the deposits of too much of lipid in the arteries. The blood vessels of the body become very hard due to the above-mentioned lipid deposits. These deposits are also known as plaques and sometimes they even rupture the result of which is dangerous for the health of the individuals.

How Can Diabetes Cause Atherosclerosis?

Diabetes patients are exposed to higher chances of contracting atherosclerosis. There are various reasons for the same. The reasons are explained as below:


The endotheliumis the inner lining of the arteries that are directly connected with the bloodstream. Atherosclerosis is caused when the endothelium is destroyed. The main reason behind this is the deposit of materials such as fat, cholesterol, fibrin, etc. resulting in the formation of plaque.

  • In a normal healthy individual, endothelium helps the smooth functioning of the blood with the help of nitrous oxide that it itself produces. The nitrous oxide so produced performs the important function of helping the muscles to relax while also helping the cells to keep away from the walls of the arteries and not stick to them. Now, when a person suffers from a chronic illness like diabetes, the formation of plaques due to the disease causes a disruption in the smooth functioning. High levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, are responsible for the disruption.
  • Another cause which leads to the rupture of the plaque that has formed in the cells lining the blood vessels disrupting the smooth flow of blood is that in diabetes, the cells responsible for immunity do not function properly. They mistake the fatty deposits and consider them bacteria, thereby attacking them. The plaque, as a result of this action, swells up and ruptures ultimately.
  • Besides, the production of nitrous oxide which is essential for the efficient functioning of the blood vessels is stimulated by the hormone insulin. In diabetes, as we know, the body becomes insensitive to insulin and hence, nitrous oxide is not produced efficiently leading to atherosclerosis.
  • In fact,it is a known fact that when the body is not sensitive to insulin, the cells that line the blood vessels of the body release substances that are responsible for the disruption of the smooth blood vessel functioning.
  • Atherosclerosis is also caused due to stress. The release of certain hormones when the body goes through stress is also responsible for preventing the blood vessels to function smoothly. Diabetes can be a major cause of stress.
  • People with diabetes also face a lot of complications including those related to the heart such as heart attacks and strokes, amongst other cardiovascular diseases.Problems in the heart, further cause atherosclerosis.

As is clear from the above-mentioned points, diabetes contributes to the problem of atherosclerosis in a big way and hence if you manage diabetes well, you will be able to manage the problem of atherosclerosis in a much better way!

Relation Between Hyperglycemia and Atherosclerosis

There is a strong association between hyperglycemia or high levels of blood sugar as well as the reasons which lead to atherosclerosis.

High blood glucose levels are responsible for the increased production of free radicals. These are highly reactive molecules leading to the death of the cells at a premature time. This process of premature death of the cells is called apoptosis.

Apoptosis further leads to a reduction in the production of nitric oxide. This, in turn, disturbs the smooth flow of blood through the blood vessels.

Thus, yet another way in which diabetes can lead to the problem of atherosclerosis is by increasing the levels of blood glucose in the body.

Complications in Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a complicated condition that can lead to adverse health effects. Hence, you should be aware of some of the complications that atherosclerosis can cause.

  • Atherosclerosis is an important contributor to coronary artery disease. Depending on the type of arteries that atherosclerosis damage, it can affect the other parts of the body too such as carotid artery disease which is caused due to the narrowing of the arteries near the brain
  • It causes heart attack and strokes
  • The disease is also known to cause several diseases related to the kidneys
  • Further, atherosclerosis can also lead to causing a bulge or swelling in the walls of an artery, known as aneurysms. This can occur at any part of the body and can cause a lot of internal bleeding, which further leads to fatal bodily conditions

We hope that the above article has been helpful in educating you about atherosclerosis and how can diabetes be a cause for the disease. As most of the conditions causing atherosclerosis are the same as diabetes, you need to take appropriate precautions similar to those in the case of diabetes. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, a proper meal plan, regular physical activity, amongst others are the main key!!

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