People with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease compared to people without diabetes.
Management of patients with type 2 diabetes has changed considerably over the last two decades, with an increased focus on the prevention of cardiovascular disease.
A recent study from Aarhus University Hospital found dramatic reductions in the risk of heart attacks in patients with diabetes coincides with major increases in the use of preventive medications.
The results suggest that when patients are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, starting medications to prevent heart disease has a substantial impact on the risk of heart attacks and premature death.
This study examined how these changes may have affected the risk of heart attacks and premature death in patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes and no previous heart disease.
The researchers identified all patients in Denmark initiating therapy for type 2 diabetes from 1996 to 2011—a total of 211,278 patients.
Each patient with diabetes was matched on age and sex with five people without diabetes from the general population.
All participants were followed for seven years.
The researchers found that patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes and no previous cardiovascular disease experienced major reductions in the risk of heart attack and death.
From 1996 to 2011, the relative risk was reduced by 61% for heart attack and by 41% for death. During the same period, the absolute risks of heart attack and death were reduced by 4% and 12%, respectively.
When comparing patients with diabetes to the general population, the initially large differences in risk narrowed over time.
By the end of the study, the risk of heart attack among patients with diabetes was only marginally—0.6% – higher than in the general population.
In those with diabetes, the use of cholesterol-lowering medications increased more than 10-fold, aspirin increased by 50%, and blood pressure-lowering medications increased up to four times during the study period.
The team also found the risk of heart attack and premature death among patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes and no previous heart disease was approximately halved from 1996 to 2011.
In the same period, the difference in risk of heart attack and death for patients with diabetes, as compared to the general population, was narrowed substantially.
The study was conducted by Dr. Christine Gyldenkerne et al and presented at ESC Congress.
For more information about heart health, please see recent studies that Vitamin D deficiency can increase heart disease risk, and results showing Vitamin K2 could help reduce heart disease risk.
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