A study published in the Lancet has recommended strict control of blood sugar if diabetics wish to cut their heart attack risk.
By undertaking a meta-analysis which pooled information from five large trials, Cambridge University researchers came to the conclusion that people with diabetes who maintain intensive, low blood sugar levels are significantly less likely to suffer heart attacks and coronary heart disease.
The research was funded by the British Heart Foundation. It pointed to a 17 reduction in heart attacks and a 15 percent reduction in coronary heart disease. However, the study found a more modest trend towards reduction in strokes with intensive control of glucose levels compared to standard care.
It has been proved many times that diabetics are at increased risk of heart disease. Even though patients can reduce their risk by maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and cholesterol reduction, the risk remains high.
Dr Kausik Ray of the University of Cambridge, lead author of the study, said:
"Previous studies have been inconclusive, leaving diabetics and their doctors unsure as to whether maintaining lower blood sugar levels actually benefitted the patients.
"Although additional research needs to be conducted, our findings provide insight into the importance of improving glucose levels which should include lifestyle changes as well as medication."
The five trials involved more than 33,000 individuals, including 1497 heart attack cases, 2,318 cases of coronary heart disease, and 1227 strokes. In order to assess the possible risk of various heart conditions, Ray and team analyzed the data collected on the glucose levels in blood, specifically a long-term marker of glucose control called HbA1c.
In healthy individuals, HbA1c levels average between 4-5 percent. However, diabetics often have levels above 6.5 percent.
In the present study, those taking a standard treatment maintained a HbA1c level of 7.5 percent. Individuals who underwent intensive treatment to lower their blood sugar level were 0.9 percent lower than those who underwent standard treatment, thereby dramatically reducing their risk of disease in large blood vessels.