Type 2 diabetes drug decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease, according to study findings. The drug, known as liraglutide, is taken by diabetics to help reduce glucose levels. Diabetics are at a higher risk for cardiovascular events and kidney disease, and this drug has been found to help reduce these risks.
The findings come from the “Liraglutide Effect and Action in Diabetes Evaluation of Cardiovascular Outcome Results” (LEADER) trial, which included 700 institutions in 32 countries.
Senior author John Buse said, “I’ve been excited about liraglutide for a long time because I think it’s unique. This is the first diabetes drug that has shown across-the-board benefits for cardiovascular diseases, and this suggests it plays a role in treating atherosclerosis, which is what leads to heart attacks and strokes.”
The LEADER study was a randomized, double-blind study consisting of 9,340 type 2 diabetics all at a high risk for heart disease. Nearly half the participants were given liraglutide and the other half received a placebo. The placebo meant patients could take other diabetic medications to treat their diabetes. Both groups were also prescribed alternative medications to treat related problems like high blood pressure, for example.
The trial lasted over three years. Findings revealed that those patients taking liraglutide had a 13 percent lower overall risk of heart attack, stroke, or death by cardiovascular disease, 22 percent lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, 15 percent lower all-cause mortality, and 22 percent lower risk of new evidence in kidney disease.
Buse added, “This changes the whole conversation about treating diabetes. To date, people have taken diabetes drugs to lower blood sugar. Now we can say that they should take liraglutide to prevent or delay the worst things that occur commonly in diabetes – heart attacks, strokes, advanced kidney disease, and death.”
Previous findings suggested that another diabetes drug known as empagliflozin may be able to reduce mortality related to cardiovascular disease, but some of the data from the trial was unclear. “The next big question is, can we combine these two drugs to help patients with advanced type 2 diabetes who are at severe risk of cardiovascular complications?” said Buse.
Lifestyle habits like diet and exercise are recommended to help control type 2 diabetes, but medications may also be prescribed if these interventions are not successful.
Buse concluded, “As more medications to treat type 2 diabetes come on the market, these sorts of clinical trials are invaluable measures of a drug’s true benefit or lack thereof. Right now, liraglutide is clearly showing it is one of the best second-line therapies available. Yet, it would be best if we could reduce the burden of this disease with preventive measures, which is why early screening and interventions remain incredibly important.”
Risk factors for heart disease and stroke in diabetes patients
It is well known that patients with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk for heart disease and stroke, and there are many contributing factors that increase a person’s risk. It’s important to note as well that heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes also share many common factors, and that is another explanation how diabetes can increase the probability of cardiovascular events.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetics that increase their risk of heart disease and stroke include having central obesity (around the abdomen), having abnormal cholesterol levels, having high blood pressure, and smoking.
The good news is, these risk factors are preventable. By actively working towards reducing these risk factors, one can also reduce their risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Healthy lifestyle choices that can help you reduce your risks involve eating well, exercising regularly to reduce abdominal fat, taking necessary measures to lower cholesterol, reducing stress, and, of course, quitting smoking.
If you require assistance to make these lifestyle changes, speak with your doctor who can offer you advice or set you up with other healthcare professionals who can guide you into the right direction towards a healthy living.