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The Impact of Ozempic on Cardiovascular Health in Diabetics

Content Team



8 min

Ozempic has become extremely popular over the past few years because it regulates blood sugar and promotes weight loss.

Recently, scientists have discovered yet another benefit of Ozempic: it can protect against cardiovascular events.

Let’s explore what Ozempic is, how it works, and how it can potentially improve cardiovascular health in diabetics.

What Is Ozempic?

Ozempic  is a Novo Nordisk-manufactured anti-diabetes drug that contains the active ingredient semaglutide.

It was first approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) in 2017 for treating type 2 diabetes.

How Does Ozempic Work?

Ozempic, or semaglutide, belongs to a class of drugs called GLP-1 agonists . These drugs mimic the natural gut hormone GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide 1).

GLP-1 regulates your blood sugar levels by stimulating the pancreas to release more insulin. The more insulin in your blood, the less likely your blood sugar is to spike.

It also slows down the liver’s production of glucose, further lowering blood glucose levels, and suppresses glucagon, a hormone responsible for raising blood sugar.

By mimicking these actions, Ozempic can help people with diabetes lower their glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels, which measures how well diabetes is managed for the previous 3 months.

Ozmepic also slows your gastric emptying, meaning food stays in your stomach longer. This has two benefits:

  1. Carbs are absorbed slower from your stomach, so your blood sugar doesn’t fluctuate too much

  2. The longer you have food in your stomach, the fuller you feel and the less likely you are to snack or overeat.

That’s why it was found to promote satiety and improve glycemic control, which is why it’s been prescribed off-label for weight loss .

The Link Between Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

Doctor checking the blood pressure of a patient
Doctor checking the blood pressure of a patient . Source: DepositPhotos

Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are two heavily intertwined conditions. Most studies show that having one of them greatly increases your chances of developing the other.

People with diabetes are almost four times more likely to experience a stroke at some point in their lives compared to those without diabetes. They’re also twice as likely to die after experiencing a heart attack compared to non-diabetics.

Statistics show they have a higher overall cardiovascular risk, which is why about 30% of diabetics also suffer from CVD .

Factors Contributing to Cardiovascular Disease in Diabetics

Unstable Blood Sugar Levels

Poor blood sugar control, especially when your sugar levels are constantly high, can affect the integrity of your blood vessels. The excess glucose can cause damage to the inner lining of your vessels, which causes inflammation and oxidative stress.

When this goes on for a long time, blood vessels can start to form plaque on the inner lining in an attempt to fight the inflammation.

However, this plaque makes blood vessels, especially the arteries, narrower. This restricts blood flow, meaning the heart has to work even harder to pump blood through to the rest of the body.

With time, as the heart becomes overworked, the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke increases.

The narrowed arteries also raise the blood’s pressure against the vessel walls, which can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure).

Poor Lipid Profile

People with diabetes often have a poor lipid profile . They tend to have elevated triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and low HDL (good cholesterol) levels. This kind of lipid profile is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

High levels of cholesterol can also lead to atherosclerosis , which is when fats build up in the arteries, making them narrower and harder for blood to flow through.

According to research by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), atherosclerosis-related heart disease is the number one cause of death in type 2 diabetics.


Young woman pinches the fat on the side of her waist to show the flab
Young woman pinches the fat on the side of her waist to show the flab. Source: DepositPhotos

Research suggests that about 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are either obese or overweight. Studies also show that obese people are 10 times more likely  to develop type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes and obesity are two closely linked conditions that can lead to each other.

Since obesity is among the top risk factors for cardiovascular disease , proper weight management can help you avoid both heart attacks and diabetes. In fact, just losing about 5% of your body weight can significantly lower your risk of heart disease .

Weight loss also helps lower triglyceride and LDL levels, which further protects you against cardiovascular problems.

How Does Ozempic Improve Cardiovascular Health?

By lowering your blood sugar levels, Ozempic gives you more glycemic control and this lowers your cardiovascular risk.

It also prevents the inflammation that’s caused by high blood sugar, hence, further lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Since Ozempic also helps with weight loss or chronic weight management, it helps reduce or prevent obesity, another major CVD risk factor.

Let’s take a look at the different research on Ozempic and cardiovascular health.

Lower CVD Risk for Non-Diabetics

Not only does Ozempic lower cardiovascular risk for people with diabetes, but recent studies have proven it can help non-diabetics, as well.

One of these studies included a large international clinical trial  that consisted of about 17,500 people from 41 countries. Each of these individuals was either overweight or obese and had a preexisting cardiovascular disease, but didn’t have diabetes.

The participants were started on semaglutide (the active ingredient in Ozempic) and their body weight and cardiovascular risk were monitored.

The study went on for 4.5 years, making it the longest and most comprehensive semaglutide trial to date. However, after just three years of taking semaglutide, the participants had:

  • A 20% lower risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart attack, and heart-related deaths

  • Lost an average of 9.4% of their body weight, which further reduced their risk of heart problems

Ozempic and Heart Failure

Another study published in the Circulation Journal showed that Ozempic can even improve the symptoms of heart failure for people who already have the condition.

The study was based on a clinical trial that lasted for 52 weeks and included 529 participants. Each of these participants was obese and suffered from the most common type of heart failure called HFpEF  (heart failure with preserved ejection fraction).

Half of the participants took 2.4mg of semaglutide weekly, while the other half took a placebo.

At the end of the clinical trial, the participants who took semaglutide had:

  • Improvements in heart failure symptoms such as shortness of breath, swelling, wheezing, and more

  • Fewer physical limitations and were able to exercise more with less effort

  • Reduced inflammation

  • Improvements in body weight

Tips for Managing Cardiovascular Health in Diabetics

The longer you’ve had diabetes, the more you should focus on reducing cardiovascular risk. Here are a few tips for managing both conditions for optimal health.

Engage in Physical Activity

Senior couple is enjoying Tai Chi exercise in park
Senior couple is enjoying Tai Chi exercise in park. Source: DepositPhotos

Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent or reduce many risk factors  for cardiovascular disease. People who exercise regularly are much less likely to have a sudden heart attack, stroke, or other major cardiovascular events.

Having a regular exercise schedule can also help:

  • Lower your blood pressure

  • Improve your blood sugar control

  • Lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes

  • Reach a healthy body weight

  • Reduce inflammation throughout your body, which further reduces your cardiovascular risk

  • Reduce stress hormones which often put pressure on the heart and lead to heart problems

  • Slow down your resting heart rate, reducing the load on your heart

  • Increases your HDL (good) cholesterol and reduces triglycerides, which lowers your risk of atherosclerosis

The ADA (American Diabetes Association) recommends a combination of aerobic and resistance training to improve your heart health and strengthen your muscles simultaneously.

Ideally, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise around five times a week and resistance training twice a week.

Your exercise regimen can include jogging, swimming, or biking with moderate weightlifting a few times a week.

Heart-Healthy Diet Plan

When it comes to managing diabetes and reducing cardiovascular risk, monitoring your carbs and fat intake is crucial. Not only the amount you consume, but the type of fats and carbs is also important.

Try to minimize saturated fats, such as those found in full-fat dairy, fatty meat, and solid fats (butter, margarine, and coconut oil). These fats can increase your LDL (bad) cholesterol which increases your risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Instead, add more unsaturated fats to your diet plan, such as nuts, avocados, oily fish, and olive oil.

You should also avoid refined carbs, such as those found in processed, prepackaged foods. Simple carbs are quickly absorbed and cause rapid spikes in your blood sugar, which is bad for people with diabetes and increases CVD risk.

Instead, focus on eating more whole grains and fiber, which are slowly absorbed and don’t cause blood sugar spikes.

Your diet plan should also contain healthy protein sources such as legumes, tofu, fish, and white-meat poultry.

Try to Reach a Healthy Weight

Being obese or overweight increases risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, that’s why it’s important to work towards healthily losing weight.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends you start with a goal of 5-10% . For example, if you weigh 260 pounds, your weight loss target should be about 13 to 26 pounds.

Proper diet and an attainable exercise plan should help you reach your goal. If you’re also taking Ozempic for diabetes, you might shed a few more pounds than you normally would without it.

How fast Ozempic works differs from one person to another, but it’s a great option if you’re having trouble losing weight in the long term.

Smoking and Alcohol

Portrait of pensive woman with glass of alcohol and cigarette
Portrait of pensive woman with glass of alcohol and cigarette. Source: DepositPhotos

Cigarette smoking is one of the leading causes of developing cardiovascular problems . Its adverse effects are exacerbated by having diabetes, compounding the risk of sudden strokes or heart attacks.

Quitting has huge benefits, not only in improving heart health, but also in controlling diabetes .

Moderating your alcohol intake is also crucial. Alcohol can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar depending on the amount of alcohol in your drink and whether you’ve had food with it.

Excessive alcohol intake also increases your risk of heart disease  and heart attacks.

The ADA recommends that you minimize your alcohol intake  and only drink if your diabetes is under control and your healthcare provider says it’s okay.

Wrapping Up

Whether you need to lose weight, manage your blood sugar, or simply stay on top of your cardiovascular health, Ozempic is an excellent choice.

Add a healthy diet and regular exercise to your Ozempic regimen and you'll notice incredible improvements in your overall health.

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