Cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death in people with type 2 diabetes, accounting for about two-thirds of deaths recorded in a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
While the relationship between type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease has long been known, it’s not clear how much of this link is due to the effects of elevated blood glucose levels on cardiovascular health. High blood glucose is known to damage blood vessels throughout the body, and most certainly plays a role in the development of cardiovascular disease. But many people with type 2 diabetes are known to have cardiovascular risk factors even before they develop diabetes — as part of a cluster of related health conditions known as metabolic syndrome — so some of the link between diabetes and cardiovascular disease could be due to common factors in their development, rather than one causing the other.
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In the latest study, researchers looked at 16,492 people with type 2 in a trial designed to look at outcomes related to disease and death in people with diabetes, as noted in a Medscape article on the study. Participants were followed for a median of 2.1 years, during which 798 participants died. About two-thirds of these deaths (66.3%) were caused by five different cardiovascular conditions, with sudden cardiac death the most common cause of death at 30.1%. The leading non-cardiovascular causes of death were cancer at 13.9%, followed by infection at 9.3%.
The researchers found that a number of factors were linked to the risk of death from cardiovascular causes. The top factor was prior heart failure, or the inability of the heart to pump blood adequately throughout the body. Other top factors linked to death from cardiovascular disease included older age, worse blood glucose control, prior cardiovascular events (such as a heart attack or stroke), peripheral arterial disease and kidney disease. These conditions, the researchers wrote, can help doctors and researchers identify people with type 2 “who are likely to achieve the greatest benefit from aggressive management of modifiable risk factors and newer glucose-lowering agents.”
But the researchers also found that two lab test results — showing abnormal levels of N-terminal pro–B-type natriuretic peptide and high-sensitivity troponin T — were better at predicting death from cardiovascular disease than any of the clinical risk factors like heart failure, older age or worse blood glucose control. More research is needed, though, before these test results can be incorporated into screening recommendations for cardiovascular disease.
Want to learn more about protecting your heart? Read “Be Heart Smart: Know Your Numbers,” “Does Diabetes Hurt Your Heart?” “Fight Off Heart Disease With These Five Heart-Healthy Foods” and “Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease.”
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