Diabetes linked to heart valve disease, study finds

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Heart valve (valvular) disease can cause many problems, such as labored breathing, fatigue, dizziness, and at worst heart failure.

In a study from the University of Gothenburg, scientists found that people with diabetes display an increased risk of disease in left-sided heart valves compared to controls without diabetes.

They also found that valvular heart disease can be prevented by lowering blood pressure and reducing other risk factors even more than current treatment targets.

Four heart valves serve to make the blood go in the right direction. Since the pressure is highest on the left side of the heart, valve disease most often affects these two valves.

This may have two effects: The valves lose their suppleness and may no longer close or open sufficiently, and regurgitation (leakage) occurs, impairing the heart’s pumping capacity.

Other research has shown that diabetes may exacerbate the hardening of valves in the heart and in the rings attaching the valves to the heart.

In the study, the team found for the first time how distinct the connection is between diabetes and the increased risk of valve disease.

They found both people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing it and, for the latter, the risk of calcification in the aortic valve (aortic stenosis) is 1.62 times higher than for controls without diabetes.

On the other hand, a relatively low risk of regurgitation was found in people with type 2 diabetes.

The team says the lower risk of primary regurgitation, or leakage, in type 2 diabetes is also caused by the presumed process of hardening and calcification that’s started by, for instance, high blood pressure, impaired blood-sugar metabolism, and factors linked to obesity.

The study is based on registered data concerning just over 3.4 million people in Sweden, followed up over 20 years.

The results suggest that heart-valve disease risk could be reduced if the recommended treatment targets were lowered.

Clinical trials are needed to verify that the effect is genuinely as beneficial as the statistics suggest.

If you care about diabetes, please read studies about drugs that could help protect heart health in diabetes, and high vitamin D levels linked to lower dementia risk in diabetes.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies that blueberries strongly benefit people with metabolic syndrome, and results showing vitamin D could improve blood pressure in people with diabetes.

The research was published in Circulation and conducted by Aidin Rawshani et al.

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