When diabetes leads to the worst heart trouble

We all know by now that there are compelling health reasons to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. The disease can lead to a lot of additional health problems, including damage to the nerves, eyes, kidneys and feet. Diabetics also are at higher risk of dementia and depression. But one of the most dangerous complications concerns diabetes and your heart.

If you’re diabetic, you’re more likely to have a stroke or develop heart disease. And diabetes significantly raises your risk of other cardiovascular problems like angina, the chest pain that accompanies coronary artery disease; and atherosclerosis, the narrowing of the arteries caused by plaque buildup.

Researchers recently examined the connection between blood sugar levels in those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and the risk of future heart attack and death. And their results show the sooner type 2 diabetics get their blood sugar under control, the better…

Target those blood sugar levels early

A collaboration between studied the significance of blood sugar levels from the time type 2 diabetes is diagnosed for the risk of heart attacks and death from all causes.

Drawing their research from the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS), researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and the University of Oxford in the U.K. analyzed the role of blood sugar levels in the first years after type 2 diabetes diagnosis to see how those early levels affected the prognosis of heart attack and all-cause death 10 to 20 years later.

They found that blood sugar levels early in the course of type 2 diabetes have a much greater impact on future heart health prognosis than previously thought.

Targeting blood sugar levels following treatment guidelines from the moment of diagnosis was associated with an estimated 20 percent lower risk of both heart attack and all-cause death 10 to 15 years later, compared to waiting and targeting it when blood sugar levels were higher.

By comparison, not maintaining healthy blood sugar levels until 10 years after type 2 diabetes diagnosis only lowered all-cause death risk by 3 percent.

“These latest results are evidence that proper early blood-sugar treatment in type 2 diabetes is crucial to optimize diabetes care,” says Professor Marcus Lind of the University of Gothenburg. “Previously we haven’t performed this kind of analysis or understood just how important early blood-sugar control is for the prognosis.”

Lind added that the results also indicate the need for a greater focus on detecting type 2 diabetes at the earliest opportunity so that people aren’t living with undetected high blood sugar levels for many years.

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According to Professor Rury Holman from the Radcliffe Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, the study also explains the mechanism behind the glycemic “legacy effect” first identified in the UKPDS. According to earlier study results, instituting good blood-sugar control in newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes reduced the risks of diabetic complications and death for up to 30 years.

“The discovery of the ‘legacy effect’ has led treatment guidelines worldwide recommending the need to achieve good blood-glucose control as soon as possible,” Holman says.

One key step to dodging type 2 diabetes

There’s good news and bad news on the diabetes front. On the bright side, new diabetes cases declined significantly from 2008 to 2018. That said, just over 1 in 10 Americans now suffer from diabetes, and an alarming 1 in 3 have prediabetes, a condition that can become full-blown type 2 diabetes if not managed properly.

The absolute best thing you can do to dramatically reduce your odds of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if you’re prediabetic, is to lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight not only helps keep your blood sugar in balance, it helps support good heart health.

Even if you already have type 2 diabetes, losing weight is a proven way to keep it under control — and in some cases even reverse the condition itself. In one study, 86 percent of the diabetics who lost 33 pounds or more were able to eliminate all their diabetes medications while remaining diabetes-free.

Weight loss is not always easy, but the payoff is huge for your health. Two diets health experts say are especially effective for weight management and lowering diabetes risk are the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.

Then there are numerous easier tips you could put to use to help manage your blood sugar… like these 5 herbs to tackle type 2 diabetes, 5 everyday foods for lower blood sugar and these 3 you should certainly avoid.

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Early blood-sugar levels in type 2 diabetes crucial for future prognosis — University of Gothenberg

Historical HbA1c Values May Explain the Type 2 Diabetes Legacy Effect: UKPDS 88 — Diabetes Care

Diabetes — Mayo Clinic

National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020 — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.