Home / Resources / Articles / Major Reduction in Risk of Heart Attacks in Patients with Diabetes 

Major Reduction in Risk of Heart Attacks in Patients with Diabetes 

Jan 16, 2021
 
Editor: David L. Joffe, BSPharm, CDE, FACA

Author: Destiny Funchess, PharmD Candidate, Tougaloo College, South College School of Pharmacy 

Initiating the right medications upon diabetes diagnosis can help mitigate risks for heart attacks. 

According to research presented by Dr. Christine Gyldenkerne of Aarhus University Hospital, initiating medication to prevent cardiovascular diseases when diagnosed with diabetes can be extremely beneficial.  

 

When glucose levels aren’t stable, it is likely to cause damage many parts of the body. High glucose levels have been known to cause damage to the heart’s nerves and blood vessels, causing cardiovascular diseases, which lead to heart attacks. There is a strong correlation between cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is mainly due to patients with diabetes having additional health conditions. These conditions include but are not limited to high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and high triglycerides, and obesity. Data from the American Heart Association states that adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes.  

The most common cause of cardiovascular disease in a person with diabetes is the hardening of the coronary arteries, also known as atherosclerosis; this is the buildup of cholesterol in the blood vessels whose function is to provide oxygen as well as nutrition to the heart. This is the result of the body trying to repair the cholesterol plaque once it ruptures. Platelets are then sent to seal up the rupture or tear. Due to the artery being small, the platelets could block the blood flow, which hinders the oxygen’s delivery, and a heart attack develops.  

This research study was presented at the ESC Congress 2020 by Dr. Christine Gyldenkerne. This was the first study done that focused on the risk of heart attacks and premature death in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The study was carried out from 1996 until 2011 and consisted of a total of 211,278 patients. Each of these patients was grouped with five people without diabetes that was selected from a general population. Each patient was followed, and records for each patient were kept. These records included heart attacks, deaths, and medications used for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. The medicines used included cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins, as well as blood pressure-lowering medications such as drugs from the class ACE inhibitors like Lisinopril. These medications were also common due to high blood pressure in 20% to 60% of patients with diabetes. Aspirin was also used during this study among many patients. Low dose aspirin therapy is recommended for men and women with type two diabetes who are over 40 and have a high risk for cardiovascular disease. The use of these medications increased among the patients as the study progressed.  

This study showed that patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and no previous cardiovascular disease experienced reductions in heart attack risk and death. The relative risk was reduced by 61% for heart attack and by 41% for death. Also, the risk of heart attack among patients with diabetes was only 0.6% higher than the general population the patients were compared to. 

In conclusion, there are several treatments for cardiovascular disease in patients with diabetes. However, there are many precautions to consider in the prevention and avoidance of cardiovascular diseases. Per Dr. Gyldenkerne, initiating medication to prevent cardiovascular diseases when diagnosed with diabetes plays a significant role in reducing heart attacks. However, many other steps and precautions are necessary to avoid cardiovascular diseases. These precautions include keeping your blood sugar as normal as possible, maintaining a target blood pressure goal of less than 130/80 mmHg, implementing an exercise regimen and a diet such as the DASH diet that consists of food that is lower in sodium as well as foods that are rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, maintaining a healthy weight, and smoking cessation. The American Diabetes Association’s new guidelines suggest giving cholesterol-lowering drugs and statins to all people with diabetes to help prevent cardiovascular disease. All of the precautions contribute to the reduction of heart attacks in patients with diabetes.  

Practice Pearls: 

  • Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes. 
  • Initiating medication for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases when diagnosed with diabetes plays a significant role in reducing heart attacks. 
  • American Diabetes Association’s new guidelines suggest giving the cholesterol-lowering drugs, statins to all people with diabetes to help prevent cardiovascular disease. 

 

National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes statistics report, 2014.   

American Heart Association. “People with type 2 diabetes and heart disease may benefit from newer therapies.” ScienceDaily.  

 

Destiny Funchess, PharmD Candidate, Tougaloo College, South College School of Pharmacy