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Researchers find way to measure diabetes heart risks that aren't the same for every patient

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Calcium artery test can determine risk of heart disease for diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, you probably already know your risk for heart disease is higher than that of a non-diabetic. Researchers now suggest diabetes heart risks aren’t the same for everyone living with the disease, challenging the notion that all patients should be given the same types of therapy.

A new study shows testing for coronary artery calcium (CAC) that can be done non-invasively –can tell if diabetic heart disease risk is high or low.

The test measures the amount of calcium in the arteries that can lead to blockage with a CT scan. It isn't a direct test like a cardiac catheterization and the cost is relatively low.

Researchers at Wake Forest say all diabetics don’t have the same risk of heart disease, despite medical guidelines that suggest the same risk reduction therapies for anyone with the disease.

Donald Bowden, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study said in a press release, "Our observations challenge accepted medical knowledge that all people with diabetes have the same risk. CAC is key in predicting the specific risk level.”

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High risk diabetics have an 11 fold higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those whose risk is low, Bowden explains. Diagnosing people with type 2 diabetes who are at highest risk would lead to better outcomes from more effective treatments.

For the study, researchers followed 1,123 people with type 2 diabetes between 34 to 86 years old; recruited from clinics in North Carolina for approximately 7.4 years.

The purpose of the investigation was to find out if CAC provided more information than the Framingham Risk Score commonly used as an assessment tool.

The study found using the relatively low cost CT scan to measure coronary artery calcium can be used to determine heart disease risk for people with type 2 diabetes. "Based on our study, we think that CAC should be added to the Framingham tool as the standard of care for all people with diabetes," Bowden said.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
December 20, 2012

Image credit: Morguefile