The secret danger to your heart

Even though your heart may seem to be fine, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found a widespread problem among Americans that is slowly killing heart cells: If you have diabetes and your cardiovascular system seems to be in good shape, you still have a six-fold increase in the possibility of suffering heart failure.

The study at Hopkins found that when they performed blood tests on people with diabetes, they found that half of them had proteins in their blood that showed their heart cells were dying. Their conclusion: A frighteningly large number of people with diabetes are suffering very small, but potentially life-threatening damage to the heart muscle linked to increased blood sugar.

Heart disease is the most prevalent cause of death for people with diabetes. In the past, it’s been thought that these deaths were caused by hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The Hopkins study calls this into question and indicates a large number of diabetics are at risk for heart failure and death. And these deaths are not linked to cholesterol or artery problems.

“It puts what we know about heart damage in diabetes on its head,” says researcher Elizabeth Selvin, who teaches epidemiology at Hopkins. “It looks like diabetes may be slowly killing heart muscle in ways we had not thought of before.”

In many cases, doctors give statins to their patients with diabetes thinking the statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol, may stave off heart problems. But the Hopkins study shows that diabetes may threaten the heart in ways that have nothing to do with cholesterol.

“Statin treatment may not be sufficient to prevent damage to the heart in people with diabetes,” Selvin says. “Even though there may be no symptoms yet, our research suggests there is microvascular damage being done to the heart which is leading to heart failure and even death.”

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.