People with diabetes who appear otherwise healthy may have a six-fold higher risk of developing heart failure regardless of their cholesterol levels, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
In nearly 50 percent of people with diabetes in their study, researchers employing an ultra-sensitive test were able to identify minute levels of a protein released into the blood when heart cells die. The finding suggests that people with diabetes may be suffering undetectable – but potentially dangerous – heart muscle damage possibly caused by their elevated blood sugar levels.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among those with diabetes, and much of that has been blamed on atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. The new research, reported online last month in the journal Circulation, suggests that a large subsection of people with diabetes are at increased risk of heart failure and cardiac death unrelated to the common culprits of cholesterol and atherosclerosis.
“It puts what we know about heart damage in diabetes on its head,” says study leader Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It looks like diabetes may be slowly killing heart muscle in ways we had not thought of before.”