According to the authors of a new study, prediabetes can destroy the cardiovascular system more than many clinicians believe, and nearly double the risk of harmful events.
Prediabetes, a relatively common condition, is diagnosed when blood sugar levels are clinically high but not reaching the levels of type 2 diabetes. The study, which enrolled more than 25,000 patients over a median of five years, found major cardiovascular events occurred in 18% of participants with prediabetes, compared with 11% of participants with normal blood sugar levels.
Participants with prediabetes were more likely to have had a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular event. In addition, patients in the prediabetes group who were able to return their blood sugar levels to normal were at high risk. 10% of these patients experienced an adverse cardiovascular event compared to 6% of their peers without diabetes or prediabetes.
The results are worrying and suggest that prediabetes is a much bigger problem than it seems, said lead author Adrian Michel, MD, of Beaumont Hospital-Royal Oak, MI.
“In general, we tend to treat prediabetes as no big deal. However, we have found that prediabetes itself can greatly increase the likelihood of a major cardiovascular event, even if it never develops diabetes, ”said Michel. “Instead of preventing diabetes, we need to shift focus and prevent prediabetes.”
Clinicians need to spend more time educating patients about the risks associated with elevated blood sugar levels, Michel claims. He suggests explaining to patients how high blood sugar affects heart health, why it can make sense to start medication much earlier or more aggressively, and how risk factor modifications such as exercise and healthy eating can help prevent disease.
The study “Prediabetes Associated with Increases in Serious Cardiovascular Events” will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th annual scientific meeting in mid-May.