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Research on stopping heart attacks and strokes

One in four people admitted to hospital with a heart attack, heart failure or a stroke, lives with diabetes.   

Professor Helen Colhoun, CARDS lead researcher

In a trial that changed diabetes care all over the world, our researchers discovered the power of a single drug to prevent heart problems.     

We're stopping heart attacks and strokes

In 2003, we funded the Collaborative Atorvastatin Diabetes Study, known as CARDS. Almost 3,000 people with type 2 diabetes took part to help us discover whether statins – a cholesterol-lowering drug – reduced their risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.  

The research showed one statin a day reduced:  

  • the risk of a serious heart problem by more than a third   
  • the risk of stroke by almost half.   

The results were so clear, the study ended two years early so everyone on the trial could benefit from the drug.    

And CARDS has completely changed the way statins are used across the world.  

Professor Helen Colhoun, University of Edinburgh, was the CARDS lead researcher. She said: 

“Now, thanks to Diabetes UK, statins are widely used to prevent cardiovascular complications in diabetes, and people with diabetes have a better quality of life and live longer.” 

Graeme Smith lives with type 2 diabetes and takes statins. He said: 

“I had a heart attack when I was in my forties. At the time I didn’t know I had type 2 diabetes, but my cardiologist estimated that I’d had it for at least ten years due to the level of damage to my heart. I had a heart bypass and was put on statins.

"I see this medication as an absolutely crucial part of the fight to reduce my risk of future problems, alongside diet, exercise and a positive attitude towards making changes to my habits and routine. 

"The research that Diabetes UK has done to protect the hearts of people with diabetes is invaluable and I hope it will prevent others having to go through what I did.”

Looking to the future

CARDS proved that investing in landmark research can bring about live-saving improvements in diabetes care. But too many people still experience diabetes-related complications, and we know that certain groups of people face an even greater risk.  

Graeme Smith

We want everyone with diabetes to live a long, healthy life, an ambition that is shared by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). Together we’re funding a £2 million project led by Professor Kamlesh Khunti to develop a new healthcare package called MiFoot.   

MiFoot aims to find the best way to prevent heart attacks, stroke and early death in people with type 2 diabetes and a history of foot ulcers. If effective, it will be rolled out through the NHS, helping to save more lives.  

In 2022 we launched a new initiative with Health Data Research UK and the British Heart Foundation. The Diabetes Data Science Catalyst aims to make huge strides in our understanding of the link between cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.  

It will help researchers understand, access and connect the UK’s unique collection of health databases to make discoveries that could improve the care of people with diabetes and save lives.  

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