Blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes has a limited effect on their risk of heart disease and stroke. It has long been believed that diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. But the research has shown that effective blood sugar management alone cannot lower the risk of heart disease in diabetes patients.
The researchers studied the effects of the drug saxagliptin in lowering blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. The study included over 16,000 participants who were monitored for over two years to assess the safety of saxagliptin and determine if it could help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers found that the drug was safe to take and was successful in lowering glucose levels. Furthermore, by lowering blood sugar, the drug also helped reduce the damage to the kidneys commonly seen in diabetics.
But despite glucose control, there was no significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Professor Kausik Ray, the U.K. national lead of the study, explained, “Through this trial, we studied the effects of a glucose-reducing drug on patients over a two-year period and observed that there was no significant benefit from lowering blood sugar levels with respect to the large blood vessels, which contribute to heart attacks and strokes. We did, though, observe a benefit on smaller vessels that contribute to kidney disease. This trial tells us that cardiovascular risk among diabetes patients must be managed through other mechanisms.”
“Controlling blood sugar in the short term certainly doesn’t present a very meaningful benefit to a patient at risk of cardiovascular problems, although there could be gains over a much longer period. The most effective way to manage cardiovascular disease is through established interventions such as reducing blood pressure, managing cholesterol, and encouraging healthier lifestyles.”
“It is clear to us now that, in patients with diabetes, there are effective therapies that will reduce their risk of kidney failure and there are separate therapies that will help reduce their risk of cardiovascular problems. More research is needed if we are to find new ways to manage cardiovascular risk in future.”
Professor Ray did explain that this study does provide reassurance of safety for a new class of drugs to treat diabetes.
Many of the prevention and management tips for diabetes and heart disease are quite similar, so you don’t have to change your life too drastically in order to lower your risk of heart disease in diabetes. These lifestyle changes include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, minimizing your intake of alcohol, and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Speak to your doctor about your risk of heart disease associated with diabetes in order to work out an effective prevention strategy.