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People with Type 1 diabetes have twice the risk of heart-related complications

People with Type 1 diabetes are more likely to have cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes, a study conducted in Scotland has shown. They also have a higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause. Controlling blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol can help reduce these risks.

Strategies employed to improve blood glucose control, which in turn help reduce associated complications, are working, but there is room for improvement, according to the study, which is published in this week’sPLOS medicine.

Higher risk of heart related complications

The researchers, led by Helen Colhoun from the University of Dundee, based their study on information from Scottish national databases covering 2005 to 2008, and representing over 20,000 patients. They found that people with Type 1 diabetes had a two- to three-times greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, or premature death than the general population.

They also found the increased risk to be higher in women than men, with men and women with Type 1 diabetes showing a 2.5 and 3.2 times higher risk of experiencing cardiovascular disease, respectively, compared to the general Scottish population.

Additionally, people with Type 1 diabetes have a higher death rate resulting from any cause, compared to the general Scottish population: in men the risk is 2.6 times higher, and in women it is 2.7 times higher.

Worryingly, the authors also found that the majority of patients in this Scottish dataset had poorly controlled blood glucose levels, with only 13% having HbA1c levels (a test that measures blood glucose control over the previous three months) within the recommended range.

Tighter control of blood glucose levels minimises complications

The need for improved blood glucose control to minimise the risk of diabetes complications has been understood for many years. This study does show that in recent years the relative risks for cardiovascular disease and premature death have been reduced for people with Type 1 diabetes. However, there is still an urgent need to understand why people with Type 1 diabetes do not have good control of their blood glucose levels, and what can be done to improve this situation.

With the right support people can live long and healthy lives

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said, “Diabetes-related complications are extremely serious and this study highlights the importance of managing blood glucose levels effectively to reduce the risk of these. It is important that people know about the seriousness of diabetes so that they can be supported by their healthcare team to take steps to manage their condition well, and go on to live long and healthy lives.

“People with Type 1 diabetes need the right education and support from their healthcare professionals to control their levels in a way which helps prevent health problems such as strokes, heart attacks, and ultimately early death. Everyone with diabetes should receive a minimum level of care, outlined in our 15 healthcare essentials, to monitor their condition and their risk of developing complications. This should be supported with advice and guidance on how to keep blood glucose levels under control.”

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