There's a long established link between heart disease and diabetes, but new research reveals a surprising finding.
The age at which you're diagnosed with diabetes could significantly raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
These days Rabbi Howard "Svi" Hollander says he tries to smile a lot.
"They say you only live once," he said, "That's not true. You only die once. You live everyday."
A saying that became all too clear four months ago at his synagogue.
"I felt there was an elephant on my chest," he said.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center doctors discovered his right coronary artery was 98% blocked.
Hollander said, "I dodged a bullet. That could have closed anywhere and I wouldn't have been here."
New research finds that bullet was decades in the making.
At the age of 35, Hollander was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It's a huge risk factor for coronary events.
Dr. Raj Khandwalla, a cardiologist with Cedars-Sinai's Smidt Heart Center, said,"If you develop diabetes before the age of 40, you more than double your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or even dying."
Khandwalla is talking about an American Heart Association study that finds the same lifestyle that leads to diabetes also leads to heart disease.
"The increases in blood sugar actually can lead to increases in inflammation," said Khandwalla. "And we know Inflammation is a really important part of developing heart disease."
On the flip side of this Journal Circulation study, researchers found people who did not develop diabetes until the age of 80 did not see a decrease in their life expectancy.
"The longer that you have diabetes, the longer that you you have a risk of developing heart disease, " Khandwalla said. "What this means is really we should be focusing our efforts to try to prevent people from developing diabetes early in life. It can make a huge difference in people's long-term outcomes."
For Hollander that means eating more whole foods especially more fiber and exercising 30 minutes a day.
He said, "I didn't realize that diabetes could have lead to heart disease and thank God we have people who are keeping aware of those things and they saved my life."