High blood sugar, heart disease linked

Special to The Times

Now diabetics have one more reason to keep their blood sugar tightly controlled: Excessive blood sugar contributes to heart disease.

Researchers already knew that diabetes doubles the risk of heart disease -- 70% to 80% of diabetics die from heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery disease -- but they were unsure whether glucose was a culprit or if other risk factors, such as cholesterol or high blood pressure, were to blame. The new study indicates that excessive blood sugar is just as important as these other factors in the development of heart disease.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore analyzed 13 studies involving nearly 10,000 people from North America and Europe with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. They found that for Type 2 diabetes, every percentage-point increase in blood glucose levels boosts risks for heart disease and strokes by 18% and ups the risk of clogged arteries in the legs by 28%. Results for Type 1 diabetes showed an increased risk of 15% for every percentage-point rise in levels of glycated hemoglobin (blood sugar).

Because every percentage point counts, says Dr. Sherita Hill Golden, a study coauthor and endocrinologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, this research should motivate diabetics to redouble their efforts to carefully monitor their glucose levels and aggressively treat all three risk factors for heart disease: high blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. The study was published in the Sept. 21 edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.