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Diabetes and the Heart

Heart disease is one common side effect of diabetes. In fact, two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Heart attacks and strokes are twice as common among people with diabetes as they are among the general population. Diabetes can cause hardening of the arteries, impeding the flow of blood bringing oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body (this can lead to problems with other body systems, such as neurological impairments).

Meeting Listing 4.04 Based on Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is a common cardiovascular impairment caused by diabetes. It is a condition in which plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries that supply blood to your heart. This can result in chest pain or even a heart attack. Over time, it can also lead to heart failure or arrhythmia.

In order to meet Listing 4.04 based on coronary heart disease, you must show that you have ischemic heart disease (which is likely if you have a serious case of coronary artery disease). You must also show (through angiography or other medically acceptable imaging) one of the following:

  • 50 percent or more narrowing of a nonbypassed left main coronary artery;
  • 70 percent or more narrowing of another nonbypassed coronary artery;
  • 50 percent or more narrowing involving a long (greater than 1 cm) segment of a nonbypassed coronary artery;
  • 50 percent or more narrowing of at least two nonbypassed coronary arteries; or
  • 70 percent or more narrowing of a bypass graft vessel.

The narrowing must result in very serious limitations in your ability to independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities of daily living.

Meeting Listing 4.02 for Chronic Heart Failure

Chronic heart failure is another possible outcome of diabetes. In order to meet Listing 4.02, you must show systolic or diastolic failure resulting in persistent symptoms that seriously limit your activities of daily living, three or more episodes of acute congestive heart failure within one year, or inability to perform on an exercise tolerance test at a workload equivalent to 5 METs.

Other Heart Conditions Caused by Diabetes

Atherosclerosis is the thickening of an arterial wall. It alone does not meet a listing, but if it leads to aneurysm of an aorta or major branch, you could qualify for benefits under Listing 4.10.

If you have one of these conditions that does not rise to listing severity, or if you have another heart condition that is not listed, you could still potentially receive Social Security disability benefits if you are unable to work full-time at any regular job. See Getting Disability Benefits for Diabetes If You Don’t Meet a Listing.