Diabetes Raises Heart Attack and Stroke Risk for Men

heart attack and stroke riskA new study shows the potentially deadly disease diabetes puts victims at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, even than people with a history of cardiovascular disease.  In addition, the danger is much higher for diabetic men than women.

Diabetes can compromise all kinds of body systems, and the side effects associated with this ever more common disease include an increased danger of heart attacks and strokes, even where there is no previous history of cardiovascular disease.  Diabetes causes blood sugar levels to stay higher than they would in a healthy person, damaging organs, tissues, and functions.  While diabetic medications such as metformin have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, people treated with insulin show no such decrease in risk.  Diabetics who require insulin tend to be those whose diabetes cannot be controlled any other way, such as by diet and exercise.  All type 1 diabetics and type 2 diabetics whose disease is very serious require insulin because their bodies cannot manufacture enough for their needs.  Their pancreases may have been damaged by an autoimmune response if they are type 1 diabetic, or if type 2 their body tissues have become unable to respond to insulin because of ill health.

Overweight and obesity are the largest known risk for diabetes, although age, poor diet, inadequate levels of physical exercise, and genetic predisposition may also be involved.  Without insulin, their blood sugar levels soar, causing all kinds of damage to organs, tissues, and body functions.  As a rule of thumb therefore, insulin dependent diabetics are more at risk from further health consequences.

The new research was carried out at Brigham and Women’s Hospital,Boston, using information from the REACH registry, a worldwide databank run by investigators into many aspects of health.   The team looked at records from 64,000 patients, both men and women, to see what effect the disease had on cardiovascular health when treated in different ways.  Some of the patients were being treated with oral medications such as metformin, some with insulin and some were given only dietary care.  Patients were from a range of ethnicities and of different ages.

The team found that the highest risk of heart attack, stroke, or death was for men treated with insulin, who had a 16% raised risk over four years.  They had more risk of heart attack, stroke, and death than non-diabetics did with a history of cardiovascular disease.  They were at a 70% increased risk of a first heart attack, and a 40% higher risk than women diabetics had when treated with insulin.

In lower risk patients, those whose diabetes could be controlled with diet, and in higher risk patients who suffered from both diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there appeared to be no difference in risk between the sexes.

With 26 million people in theUScurrently living with diabetes, and figures expected to rise higher, this has clear implications for medical treatment and costs in the future.  As always, diabetes has effects, which go far beyond a simple increase of blood sugar levels, and it has implications for many areas in the healthcare arena.

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