Diabetes has long been regarded as a risk factor of heart disease. The specific relationship between the two was unclear although diabetes is known to double the risk of heart disease. As a result, many people living with diabetes have to monitor their health for well-known risk factors for heart disease, such as obesity, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Despite the fact that the role of blood sugar levels in managing their risk of developing cardiovascular disease remains as a big unknown, diabetics are still advised to achieve a well-controlled level of blood sugar.
In 2004, researchers from United States revealed that a new blood test (at that time) can predict risk of developing heart disease for people with diabetes.
Two separate studies had suggested that people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes should regularly take the hemoglobin A1c test, on top of their regular checks of blood sugar. The HA1c test looks for glycated hemoglobin, also called glycosylated hemoglobin, and is a measure of how well blood sugar is controlled.
In one study, the researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reanalyzed the data from 13 studies involving nearly 10,000 people from North America and Europe, and found that those with higher levels had much higher risks of heart and artery disease.
Being published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the research reported that 1 percent point increase in HA1c predicted an 18 percent increase in risk for total cardiovascular disease and a 28 per cent risk for peripheral vascular disease (clogged arteries in the legs).
Similar results were found in the second study. The researchers from the Cambridge University and Britain’s Medical Research Council studied 10,030 people aged between 45 and 79 for 6 years. They found that a 21 percent increase in cardiovascular events such as heart attack, for every 1 percent point increase in hemoglobin A1c above 5 percent. Persons with HA1c concentrations less than 5 percent had the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease and mortality. This was true even when patients were older and fatter and regardless of blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
In conclusion, the 2 studies clearly prove that the glycosylated hemoglobin level is an independent progressive risk factor for incident cardiovascular events, regardless of diabetes status. Glycosylated hemoglobin level can be added to the list of other clearly established indicators of cardiovascular risk, such as blood pressure and cholesterol level.
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