Having few muscles can double heart disease death risk in people with diabetes

Credit: Unsplash+

New research presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) has found a big connection between having low muscle mass and a higher risk of dying from heart disease in people with diabetes.

This link remains strong, even when considering other factors such as frailty, blood sugar control, and diabetes-related complications.

The study aims to clarify how age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, affects the risk of heart disease and death in people with diabetes.

Understanding Diabetes and Muscle Mass

Diabetes is a medical condition where the body struggles to manage blood sugar levels properly.

There are two main types: Type 1, usually diagnosed in childhood, and Type 2, often linked to lifestyle and diet. Regardless of the type, managing diabetes is essential to prevent complications, including heart disease.

Sarcopenia, on the other hand, is a condition where individuals experience a reduction in muscle mass and strength as they age.

It can result in muscle weakness, frailty, and an increased risk of falls and fractures. Emerging research suggests that sarcopenia may also have links to heart health, particularly in people with diabetes.

The Study’s Findings

The study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) involving over 1,500 adults in the United States who had diabetes.

Researchers classified participants based on their muscle mass, separating them into two groups: those with low muscle mass and those with normal muscle mass.

Over an average follow-up period of 9.3 years, the results showed that people with low muscle mass had a 44% higher risk of dying from any cause than those with normal muscle mass.

Additionally, the risk of dying from heart disease (cardiovascular disease or CVD) was twice as high for individuals with low muscle mass.

What Sets This Study Apart?

Previous research had hinted at the relationship between low muscle mass and heart disease in individuals with diabetes. However, this study offers a unique perspective.

It goes beyond the traditional factors typically associated with heart disease, such as blood sugar control and diabetes-related complications like kidney or eye problems.

This study also accounts for frailty, which is a measure of overall health, including memory, hospital stays, and various blood test results.

By doing so, it demonstrates that the risk of heart disease and death associated with low muscle mass is not explained by these factors.

The Implications

These findings are significant because they underscore the importance of muscle health in people with diabetes.

Individuals with low muscle mass may face an increased risk of heart disease and premature death, even if their blood sugar levels are well-controlled, and they do not have diabetes-related complications.

Understanding the role of muscle mass in heart health can help guide more effective strategies for managing diabetes and reducing the risk of heart disease in these individuals.


The research presented at the EASD conference highlights the critical connection between low muscle mass and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease-related deaths in people with diabetes.

This relationship remains substantial, regardless of other factors such as blood sugar control, complications, and frailty.

The study’s insights emphasize the importance of considering muscle mass when managing diabetes and preventing heart disease in affected individuals.

Further research is needed to explore the mechanisms underlying this link, which could lead to more targeted interventions to improve the health and longevity of people with diabetes.

If you care about heart disease, please read studies about a big cause of heart failure, and common blood test could advance heart failure treatment.

For more information about heart health, please see recent studies about a new way to repair human heart, and results showing drinking coffee may help reduce heart failure risk.

The research findings can be found in Nature Neuroscience.

Follow us on Twitter for more articles about this topic.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.