Older adults who suffer from impaired glucose tolerance but are not specifically classified as diabetic, they may still be at an increased risk of heart disease; warn researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
The researchers, however, add that such pre-diabetics may benefit from preventive therapies.
Lead researcher Dr. Jill P. Crandall, associate professor of clinical medicine and director of the Diabetes Clinical Trials Unit at Einstein, points out that diabetes becomes increasingly common with age.
"In most cases, this mild form of high blood glucose causes no symptoms and is often overlooked by both doctors and patients, but studies have shown that it may be associated with increased risk of heart disease," says Dr. Crandall.
"The purpose of this study was to explore the cardiovascular risk profile of older adults with pre-diabetes," adds the researcher.
Describing the study in the online edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Dr. Crandall revealed that the research team looked at 58 older adults with an average age of 71, half with normal glucose tolerance and half with post-challenge hyperglycemia (PCH)-which is characterized by a temporary spike in blood glucose levels that occurs immediately after a meal.
The researchers took various measures before and after the study participants consumed a standard high carbohydrate meal.
They observed that the adults with PCH not only had higher glucose and insulin levels after the meal, but also higher levels of triglycerides-a type of blood fat considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
The group said that such people also had higher levels of a protein that promotes blood clotting, and more inflammation of blood vessels, compared to controls.
After carrying out a test of blood vessel function after the meal, the researchers found impairment only in the PCH group.
They highlight the fact that previous studies have shown that increases in each of such measures raise one's risk for heart disease.
According to them, routine glucose screening like the standard oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)-which measures the body's ability to use glucose, the body's main source of energy-may be used to identify these high-risk individuals among the elderly.
Despite the results of the current study, the researchers concede that they have not established it as yet whether treatment aimed at reducing mild hyperglycemia will lower their risk for heart disease.
"Consequently, other interventions designed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including the use of statins and aspirin, should be strongly considered for older adults with PCH," says Dr. Crandall.