Pre-diabetes nearly DOUBLES the risk of having a heart attack or stroke because high blood sugar damages the arteries, study finds
Pre-diabetes can almost double a patient’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to a study.
The common condition, thought to affect one in three Americans and at least seven million Brits, develops when someone’s blood sugar is too high but still controllable.
If left unchecked it can develop into type 2 diabetes, in which the body becomes unable to control its own blood sugar, and this is often irreversible and causes long-term health problems.
Researchers at Beaumont Hospital in Michigan carried out a study on 25,000 patients, half of whom had pre-diabetes, and revealed they face a heightened risk of serious heart problems such as heart attacks and stroke.
They warned that doctors ‘tend to treat it as no big deal’ but that this research should be a wake-up call to the potential long-term damage it causes.
High blood sugar levels over a long period of time can cause serious damage to blood vessels and the heart which raises the risk of them failing, the team said.
Pre-diabetes is diagnosed when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but still too low to be type 2 diabetes. A study suggests the condition can lead to serious cardiovascular events (stock image)
In the study, scientists followed patients who had either pre-diabetes or normal blood sugar levels between the ages of 18 and 104, and looked at 14 years’ worth of health records.
They found 18 per cent of those with pre-diabetes suffered serious ‘cardiovascular events’ – such as a heart attack – during this time.
But the same only happened to 11 per of those who had normal blood sugar.
They also found people with pre-diabetes were significantly more likely to suffer a stroke.
Even when the pre-diabetes was reversed, past patients still had a higher risk of suffering a heart attack.
Results showed 10.5 per cent of former patients experienced a serious cardiovascular event, compared to six per cent of those who had normal blood sugar levels.
‘Based on our data, having pre-diabetes nearly doubled the chance of a major adverse cardiovascular event, which accounts for one of four deaths in the US,’ said Dr Adrian Michel, a medicine expert at Beaumont Hospital who led the study.
‘As clinicians, we need to spend more time educating our patients about the risk of elevated blood sugar levels and what it means for their heart health and consider starting medication much earlier or more aggressively.
‘And advising on risk factor modification, including advice on exercise and adopting a healthy diet.’
He added: ‘In general, we tend to treat pre-diabetes as no big deal.
‘But we found that pre-diabetes itself can significantly boost someone’s chance of having a major cardiovascular event, even if they never progress to having diabetes.’
Pre-diabetes develops when someone has high blood sugar but their body is still able to control it.
WHAT IS TYPE 2 DIABETES?
Type 2 diabetes is a condition which causes a person’s blood sugar to get too high.
More than 4million people in the UK are thought to have some form of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with being overweight and you may be more likely to get it if it’s in the family.
The condition means the body does not react properly to insulin – the hormone which controls absorption of sugar into the blood – and cannot properly regulate sugar glucose levels in the blood.
Excess fat in the liver increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as the buildup makes it harder to control glucose levels, and also makes the body more resistant to insulin.
Weight loss is the key to reducing liver fat and getting symptoms under control.
Symptoms include tiredness, feeling thirsty, and frequent urination.
It can lead to more serious problems with nerves, vision and the heart.
Treatment usually involves changing your diet and lifestyle, but more serious cases may require medication.
Source: NHS Choices; Diabetes.co.uk