The longer people with diabetes have the disease, the greater their risk of developing heart disease, new research shows.
The longer people with diabetes have the disease, the greater their risk of developing heart disease, new research shows. Investigators found that for every 10 years a person has diabetes, his or her chance of developing heart disease increases by 38 percent. Furthermore, after 10 years of diabetes, the risk of dying from heart disease increases by nearly 90 percent. More studies are needed to determine why having diabetes for longer increases the risk of heart disease, Dr. Caroline Fox of the National Institutes of Health and her colleagues write in the journal Diabetes Care. The findings come from a study of people with type 2, or non-insulin dependent, diabetes, which is closely linked to obesity. In people with type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels rise as the body becomes resistant to insulin, the hormone that processes sugar in the body. While type 2 diabetes used to be primarily a problem of middle and old age, new cases of the illness among people 30 to 39 have risen 70 percent in the last decade. Previous research has shown that people with type 2 diabetes are up to 3 times more likely to develop heart disease than non-diabetics. However, results of studies into whether having diabetes for longer puts people at higher risk of heart disease have been contradictory. During the current study, Fox and her colleagues reviewed information collected from 483 people participating in the Framingham Heart Study. Begun in 1948, the study has followed the heart health of thousands of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, and their children. All participants were initially free of cardiovascular disease. Fox and her colleagues followed them for 12 years, noting who developed heart disease and how long they had had diabetes. Over the course of the study, 86 cardiovascular events occurred, including 36 deaths. Longer duration of diabetes appeared to increase the risk of both heart disease and dying from heart disease, Fox and her team report. Possible reasons for why more years with diabetes translates to a higher risk of heart disease include the fact that longer duration of diabetes may raise the risk of artery clogging, heart rate problems and cell damage, the authors write. (Source: Diabetes Care: Reuters Health: March 2004.)