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The Connection between Heart Disease and Diabetes in African Populations

A major concern for people living with type II diabetes is its strong correlation with increased risk of other chronic cardiovascular-related illnesses. The high level of blood glucose can cause long-term damage to the blood vessels; additionally, type II diabetes increases blood pressure and raises the levels of harmful cholesterol within the body (Gao, Seshasai, Gobin, Kaptoge, & Di Angelantonio, 2010). Furthermore, research has proven the risk of stroke and heart attack among adults has a direct influence on the length of type II diabetes diagnosis (Bourne, et al.,2013).

The development of cardiovascular disease from type II diabetes is far more frequent in urban areas than in rural Africa[ERM1] . Rapid urbanization and facilitation between rural and urban settings based on infrastructure enhancements may be facilitating the transfer and introduction of urban practices to rural settings with consequent changes in diets and lifestyles. This results in the consumption of energy-dense traditional or processed foods that lead to poor health and obesity. Much evidence shows that lack of healthy dietary choices and limited nutritional guidance among the African population makes the management of type II diabetes much more difficult within this population (DiSantis, 2013). Studies have shown that the obesity rate among women in urban Ghana is nearly as high as those reported among women in the USA after the diagnosis of type II diabetes  (Agyemang, 2016). 

Many of us think that each non-communicable disease (NCD) stands alone from the other, but the truth is, one NCD can increase your risk of developing another. Diabetes and heart failure are a pair of NCDs that come hand in hand, therefore, it’s important to understand their relationship to disease prevention. Early management, education and prevention are key factors to avoid developing a combination of NCDs.


Agyemang, C. E. (2016). Obesity and type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africans – Is the burden in today’s Africa similar to African migrants in Europe? The RODAM study. BMC Medicine, 14:166.

Bourne, R. S. (2013). Causes of vision loss worldwide, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis. The Lancet Global Health, 1(6):e339-49.

DiSantis, K. (2013). What “Price” Means When Buying Food: Insights From a Multisite Qualitative Study with Black Americans. American Journal of Public Health, 103(3):516-522.

Gao, S. S. (2010). Diabetes mellitus, fasting blood glucose concentration, and risk of vascular disease: a collaborative meta-analysis of 102 prospective studies. Emerging risk factors collaboration. Lancet, 26;375: 2215-2222.


Lucy Chu is a graduate of the University of Toronto doubled major in physiology and cell molecular biology. She is currently studying at the University of Waterloo as a Master of Health Evaluation Candidate. Lucy works closely with world-renowned cardiologists as a clinical researcher at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre of Toronto General Hospital, she specializes in clinical investigation towards advancing the standard of care for heart failure and new heart transplanted patients. Additionally, Lucy’s past work at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre has driven her interest in NCDs prevention through personal patient interactions and first - hand experiences.


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