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What Is the Life Expectancy with Heart Disease and Diabetes?

The fundamentals of the McDougall Program are simple yet often difficult to implement. Learn about the 12-Day McDougall Program - a life-saving medical program that empowers participants with the knowledge and practical steps needed to live a vibrant, long life. For questions on whether a change in diet can help your ailment, learn more about our consultations.
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A woman wearing glasses is looking through the window wondering about her life expectancy with heart disease and diabetes.

A study published in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice shows that women with both diabetes and heart disease had 11.1 years taken off their life expectancy, and men had 8.2 years off theirs.

Diabetes can increase your chance of developing heart disease, and heart disease can put you at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Why is that? How are these two connected, and what’s the life expectancy with heart disease and diabetes? Do you have one or both of these diseases?

Keep reading to learn more about these diseases and how to extend your lifespan.

The Link Between Heart Disease and Life Expectancy

Various factors affect the link between heart disease and life expectancy. They include whether you’ve had a heart attack, the point of disease progression and whether you take steps to improve your health.

Other factors include:

  • Blood pressure levels
  • Cholesterol levels
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Weight
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use

The Link Between Diabetes and Life Expectancy

One study found that men 50 or older with diabetes lived 7.5 years less than men without diabetes. The same study found that women 50 or older with diabetes live 8.2 years less than those who don’t have diabetes.

Like with heart disease, factors including weight, exercise, diet, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking or drinking affect diabetes and influence life expectancy. The quality and consistency of blood sugar level management also influence life expectancy with diabetes.

How Can Diabetes Affect Your Heart?

Since diabetes is closely tied to the blood system, the disease often negatively affects the heart.


Excess bad cholesterol can create plaque and make already damaged arteries more vulnerable to plaque buildup—the most common reason for heart attacks. Plaque narrows the space that blood flows through and can lead to high blood pressure.

High Blood Sugar

High blood sugar levels can eventually damage blood vessels and nerves throughout the body, including the heart, creating circulation problems. Depending on how much damage occurs, you can develop heart disease.

Nerve damage can also make it hard for people with diabetes to feel typical heart disease warning signs like chest pain, and they may not get help until it’s progressed too far.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure makes more blood flow through the arteries faster and harder, which can damage the artery walls. Like blood sugar levels, high blood pressure can damage individual vessels, making it more challenging for blood to flow.

When blood struggles to circulate, the heart strains to pump harder.

Strategies for Improving Life Expectancy

Just because you have heart disease or diabetes—or both, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a long life. These strategies can increase life expectancy and improve your quality of life.

Eating Healthy

This might sound almost too simple, but eating healthy can improve your life in many ways. Focusing more on plant-based meals instead of sugary or fatty meals will improve overall health and, even more specifically, your heart health.

Exercising More

Increasing activity makes the body more sensitive to insulin, which can help manage diabetes better. It also gets blood pumping and helps strengthen the body overall. Even a few hours a week can make a difference.

Controlling Your Weight

Being overweight puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, and losing weight can lower bad cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Even a 5% weight loss can improve your health drastically.

Managing and Reducing Stress

Stress causes much damage to the body, leading to inflammation and increased blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Reducing stress through meditation, yoga, exercise and anything else that helps can extend your life expectancy.

How to Take Care of Your Heart

Living healthy is challenging, but it’s so worth it. With just a couple of lifestyle changes, you can reverse Type 2 diabetes to live a longer and happier life.

Take Linda, for example. Linda used The McDougall program to turn her life around when her health was at its worst.

An older smiling woman with pretty silver hair

And you don’t have to do it alone. Dr. McDougall offers various programs and recipes to get started. If you’re concerned about diabetes, be sure to browse our 12-day starch diet program.