Tag Archives: heart disease

New Advances In Lipid Genetics Lead To Better Detection And Prevention Of Diabetes, Heart Disease

By identifying those at risk at the earliest stage would mean giving individuals plenty of time to make the lifestyle changes that could help them avoid the disease

RESEARCHERS from the US and The Netherlands have found ways to earlier and better prediction of diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, and heart disease through studying the genetic make-up of different varieties of lipids in blood plasma.

Studying the genetic make-up of different varieties of lipids (fatty molecules) in the blood plasma of an individual can lead to a better and earlier prediction of diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, and heart disease, two researchers reported on Monday at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics, currently in session in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

In the first study, Dr. Joanne Curran from the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, San Antonio, USA, reported that lipidomic profiling would become a more reliable early indicator of individuals likely to develop diabetes than the more commonly used predictors such as blood glucose and insulin levels.

Dr. Curran and colleagues from the US and Australia measured 356 different lipid varieties from about 1100 Mexican American members of large extended families who were part of the San Antonio Family Heart Study. The Mexican American population is at high risk of diabetes with about 25% of this population ultimately becoming diabetic. At the start of the research, 861 of the individuals studied did not have diabetes. However, over the 10 year follow-up examined in the study, 110 individuals did develop the disease.

The scientists were able to isolate 128 different varieties of lipids that predicted the progression to diabetes by measuring the lipidomic profiles of each individual at multiple timepoints during the follow-up period. “The single best predictor we found was a novel component called dihydroceramide (dhCer). This was substantially increased in people with diabetes. It is also heritable, and appears to be an independent risk factor unconnected to blood sugar and insulin levels,” said Dr. Curran.

After uncovering the link between dhCer and diabetes, the team searched the genome to find locations that harbored genes that influence dhCer levels. They identified a region on chromosome 3 that appeared to contain a gene with substantial importance for the production of dhCer. “Through whole genome sequencing, we are now attempting to identify this causal gene in the hope that it will be informative in the understanding of the pathogenesis of diabetes, and also suggest new avenues for treatment,” Dr. Curran said.

Dr Joanne E. Curran

In the future, the researchers say, measurement of dhCer levels could become routine in the prediction of individuals likely to become diabetic. One of the difficulties of the current predictive methods is that they do not function until a patient is near to developing the disease. Being able to identify those at risk at the earliest stage would mean that individuals have plenty of time to make the lifestyle changes that could help them avoid the disease – through a change in diet, or increasing physical activity, for example.

“Currently one in ten US adults suffers from diabetes and recently the Centers for Disease Control has predicted that this will increase to one in three by 2050,” said Dr. Curran. “We are optimistic that our discovery will lead to new treatments, but in the short-term the importance of finding out at an early stage whether any individual is likely to develop it cannot be overstated. A test based on dhCer levels will help to avoid the serious health effects that diabetes has in its own right, such as kidney failure, amputations, and blindness. It is, of course, also a risk for cardiovascular disease, so the health burden of this condition is enormous”, she was quoted saying in a press release.

In the second study, Dr. Sarah Willems, from the Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, described to the conference research carried out on the influence of common genetic lipid variants on atherosclerosis and related heart disease. “A recent genome-wide meta-analysis of more than 100,000 individuals identified a large number of genetic variants associated with levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. These molecules are, at increased levels of LDL and triglycerides and decreased levels of HDL, important risk factors for cardiovascular disease”, said Dr. Willems.

Dr Sarah Willems

“As our knowledge of genetic variation increases, preclinical genetic screening tools might enhance the prediction and prevention of clinical events,” Willems’ group told attendees.

The researchers used risk scores from these genetic variants to test the hypothesis that their cumulative effects were associated with cardiovascular disease. For this purpose they used genetic data from more than 8000 individuals from the population-based Rotterdam Study and more than 2000 individuals participating in the Dutch family-based Erasmus Rucphen Family study.

They found an association between the LDL risk score and arterial wall thickness, and a strong association of this risk score with carotid plaque. These conditions can cause arterial blockage which leads to stroke. The same risk score was also associated with coronary heart disease.

“Our findings show that an accumulation of common genetic variants with small effects on lipid levels can have a significant effect on clinical and sub-clinical outcomes”, said Dr. Aaron Isaacs, who led the project. “In the future, as our knowledge of genetic variation increases, effective pre-clinical genetic screening tools may be able to enhance the prediction and prevention of diseases such as cardiovascular disease.”

New genetic variants influencing lipid levels are being identified all the time, the researchers say. “As new variants are discovered, we would like to be able to continue to test them, both singly and combined, for association with cardiovascular disease. The cost of these diseases to individuals, families, society and healthcare systems is immense”, said Dr. Willems.

“Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death in Europe, killing over 4 million people per year. It also represents 23% of the total disease burden (illness and death) across the continent. Managing cholesterol levels is important for prevention. This can be done early in life by effective treatment. We hope that our study, showing that common genetic variants play an important role in the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, marks a starting point for early prediction and prevention and may thus reduce the burden of disease,” she concluded.

Traditional clinical risk factors can predict diabetes and heart disease already, but adding genetic tools to the mix could be useful, particularly in determining how aggressively to approach prevention in patients considered intermediate risk by conventional measures, commented Donna Arnett, PhD, MSPH, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association.

The cost of genetic testing could be a hurdle for clinical application, though, until ways are found to make it more affordable, she noted in an interview, adding lipodemic profiling is still in its infancy and more information is needed on how measures like dihydroceramide might measure up against clinical factors like waist circumference.

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The European Society of Human Genetics aims to promote research in basic and applied human and medical genetics, to ensure high standards in clinical practice and to facilitate contacts between all persons who share these aims, particularly those working in Europe. It currently has about 1600 members from 66 countries. About 2500 delegates are attending this year’s conference.

Note: These studies were published as an abstract and presented at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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New Form Of ‘Ultra-Bad’ Cholesterol That Increases Risk Of Heart Disease Discovered

Fatty material is stickier than LDL, making it more likely to attach to artery walls

SCIENTISTS from the University of Warwick in the UK have discovered a new form of ‘ultra-bad’ cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease. The fatty material is stickier than the common form of ‘bad’ cholesterol, making it more likely to attach to artery walls.

Funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), the researchers found that ‘ultra-bad’ cholesterol, called MGmin-low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is more common in people with type 2 diabetes and the elderly, appears to be ‘stickier’ than normal LDL. This makes it more likely to attach to the walls of arteries. When LDL attaches to artery walls it helps form the dangerous ‘fatty’ plaques’ that cause coronary heart disease (CHD).

The research – published online on May 26 in the journal Diabetes – shows how the make-up and the shape of a type of LDL cholesterol found in diabetics could make it more harmful than other types of LDL. The findings provide one possible explanation for the increased risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes. Understanding exactly how ‘ultra-bad’ LDL damages arteries is crucial, as this knowledge could help develop new anti-cholesterol treatments for patients.

The researchers made the discovery by creating human MGmin-LDL in the laboratory, then studying its characteristics and interactions with other important molecules in the body. They found that MGmin-LDL is created by the addition of sugar groups to ‘normal’ LDL – a process called glycation – making LDL smaller and denser.

By changing its shape, the sugar groups expose new regions on the surface of the LDL. These exposed regions are more likely to stick to artery walls, helping to build fatty plaques. As fatty plaques grow they narrow arteries – reducing blood flow – and they can eventually rupture, triggering a blood clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.

The discovery might also explain why metformin, a widely prescribed type 2 diabetes drug, seems to lead to reduced heart disease risk. Metformin is known to lower blood sugar levels, and this new research shows it may reduce the risk of CHD by blocking the transformation of normal LDL to the more ‘sticky’ MGmin-LDL.

Dr Naila Rabbani

Dr Naila Rabbani, Associate Professor of Experimental Systems Biology at Warwick Medical School, who led the study, said: “We’re excited to see our research leading to a greater understanding of this type of cholesterol, which seems to contribute to heart disease in diabetics and elderly people. Type 2 diabetes is a big issue…particularly common in lower income groups and South Asian communities.  The next challenge is to tackle this more dangerous type of cholesterol with treatments that could help neutralize its harmful effects on patients’ arteries.”

Dr Shannon Amoils, Research Advisor at the BHF, said: “We’ve known for a long time that people with diabetes are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke. There is still more work to be done to untangle why this is the case, but this study is an important step in the right direction.”

Via EurekAlert

U.S. Halts ‘Good Cholesterol’ Study

Meanwhile, U.S. officials abruptly halted a major study Wednesday of a drug that boosts people’s good cholesterol did not go on to prevent heart attacks or strokes.

The disappointing findings involve super-strength niacin (Niaspan), a type of B vitamin that many doctors already prescribe as potential heart protection. The failed study marks the latest setback in the quest to harness good cholesterol to fight the bad kind.

The trial, called AIM-HIGH, looked at whether adding Niaspan — a high-dose, extended-release form of niacin, or vitamin B3 — to certain heart-disease patients’ statin drug regimens would prevent more cardiac events than a statin alone.

“This sends us a bit back to the drawing board,” said Dr Susan Shurin, cardiovascular chief at the National Institutes of Health. The study tested Abbott Laboratories’ Niaspan, an extended-release form of niacin that is a far higher dose than is found in dietary supplements. As expected, the Niaspan users saw their beneficial HDL levels rise and their levels of risky triglycerides drop more than people who took a statin alone.

But the combination treatment did not reduce heart attacks, strokes, or the need for artery-clearing procedures such as angioplasty, the NIH said. It led the NIH to stop the study 18 months ahead of schedule.

Related news: Arterial plaque test may accurately predict risk for cardiovascular complications among type 2 diabetics

Common Test Could Help Predict Early Death In Diabetes

High levels of calcified ‘plaque’, a strong indicator of coronary heart disease, can be measured by a special ‘gated’ CT scan that costs just over $200

WHILE vascular disease is common in the general population, it is twice as common in people with diabetes. At least 60 percent of diabetes patients – even those on dialysis for kidney failure – ultimately die of a vascular event, such as heart attack or stroke. However, questions about why so many diabetes patients die early have remained unanswered in the medical community’s understanding of the disease.

Diabetes is associated with many other medical problems so identifying a way to determine who is at highest risk and who needs the most intensive medical monitoring and care is especially important. Now new findings reveal that a common test may be useful in predicting early death in individuals with diabetes. The study appears in the May issue of Diabetes Care.

Dr. Donald W. Bowden

“People with diabetes are already at high risk of developing heart disease and experiencing an early death,” said Donald W. Bowden, Ph.D., the director of the Center for Diabetes Research at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and lead investigator in a press statement. “With this study, we’ve discovered that we can identify a subset of individuals within this high risk group who are at even higher risk, and the means to do this is already widely available in the form of a computed tomography (CT) scan – a relatively inexpensive and non-invasive test.”

For the Diabetes Heart Study, Bowden and colleagues have been following nearly 1,500 patients with diabetes in North Carolina for about 13 years, gathering data on various aspects of the disease and how it affects individual health. As original study participants began to die, the researchers sought to understand why.

“When we reviewed the data last year, we were shocked by the number of participants who had already died during this study,” Bowden said. “We wanted to find out if there were any predictors of who would succumb versus those who are still living. In a group of people who are already at high risk, we were looking for a way to identify which individuals were at even higher risk for early death, with the goal of finding interventions or ways to focus medical care and attention toward those individuals at highest risk.”

A high coronary artery calcium (CAC) score is known to be a strong indicator of coronary heart disease. The score provides a measure of how much coronary artery disease, or calcified ‘plaque’ is present in the blood vessels of the heart. Plaque plays a major role in heart attacks and other vascular events and can be measured by taking a special ‘gated’ CT scan which, in comparison to typical CT scans, uses very few X-rays, does not require any injections and generally takes less than 10 minutes to perform. (At Wake Forest Baptist, the test costs just over $200 and some insurance companies will cover the exam in appropriate situations, informs the press statement.).

Within the diabetes-affected population, there is a very wide range of calcified plaque buildup in the arteries and the heart, from individuals with none at all, to people whose entire vessels are nearly completely calcified. The researchers separated more than 1,000 study participants into five groups, according to the amount of calcified plaque they had in their blood vessels at the beginning of the study. The health of those participants was then followed for an average of 7.4 years before researchers compared the data from those who died during the study to those who are still living.

“We saw a dramatic risk of dying earlier in the people with highest levels of calcified plaque in their blood vessels,” Bowden said. “When comparing the group with the highest amount of plaque to the group that had the lowest amount of calcified plaque, the risk of dying was more than six times greater in the group with high levels of calcified plaque. The difference in risk that we revealed is striking. It’s in a group of people who are already at risk, but the CAC level really rather dramatically differentiates risk between people within this high risk group. This finding could have novel clinical implications.”

“The striking magnitude of the risk suggests very strongly that other research samples should be evaluated, especially in individuals with diabetes,” he said.

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Limiting Cholesterol Levels May Minimize Inflammation and Reduce Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Study will make possible new target therapies that help predict susceptibility to the metabolic condition and perhaps prevent diabetes

BY stimulating the enzyme cholesteryl ester hydrolase (CEH) to remove more cholesterol from cells, it may be possible to limit inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce an individual’s type 2 diabetes risk, claims a group of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. The results of the study have been published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Cholesterol has long been known to increase inflammation levels, and inflammation is well regarded as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Yet the researchers noted that few treatments for type 2 diabetes specifically target high cholesterol levels. It is hoped that the study will make possible new target therapies that help predict susceptibility to the metabolic condition, and perhaps prevent diabetes in the future.

“Although diabetes and heart disease often co-exist, current management of diabetes does not necessarily include cholesterol and/or inflammation control,” said lead researcher Shobha Ghosh, PhD. “These studies provide the first evidence that targeting fat tissue inflammation as well as elimination of cholesterol from the body may be emerging new strategies to prevent diabetes.”

For the study, the team analyzed the effect of turning up the expression of a gene that regulates CEH levels in a group of mice. The results showed that even when fed a high-fat diet, these mice had lower levels of inflammation and were more sensitive to the effects of insulin.

The results held true despite the fact that mice still gained significant weight from being fed the high-fat diet. Ghosh explained CEH appeared to cause low-density lipoprotein cholesterol molecules to exit cells, where they could then be neutralized by high-density lipoprotein cholesterol cells and taken to the liver for processing.

Ghosh said that these findings suggest that taking steps to control cholesterol levels in individuals with other risk factors for type 2 diabetes may be an effective treatment strategy. Additionally, they reveal that stimulating the genes that regulate CEH levels in the body may be one of the surest ways to control cellular cholesterol levels and limit fat’s pro-inflammatory effects.

From Endocrine Today

Related story: Arterial Plaques May Be Reduced By Increasing the Amount of a Key Enzyme in Cells Storing Cholesterol

Diabetes: Vegetarians Better Off Than Non-Vegetarians On All Counts Including Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure, Waist Size, BMI & Blood Fats

People who follow a vegetarian or meat-free diet may be at a lower risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, a new study suggests. The study of lifestyle habits of more than 700 adults showed researchers that 23 out of every 100 vegetarians have at least three metabolic syndrome factors, compared with 39 out of every 100 non-vegetarians and 37 out of every 100 semi-vegetarians.

The researchers measured a suite of factors ‒ blood sugar, blood fats, blood pressure, waist size, and body mass ‒ that when elevated add up to “metabolic syndrome,” and found that vegetarians were lower than non-vegetarians on all counts except cholesterol.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of health disorders that increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes. The risk factors include conditions like abdominal obesity, blood fat disorders, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance or glucose intolerance.

Vegetarianism excludes high-calorie foods and animal products laden with saturated fats. It instead concentrates on foods that give necessary minerals and vitamins that help give diabetics a better chance of blood glucose control. These include whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

Vegetarian diets are rich in fiber, which has numerous benefits. When a diabetic eats a fiber-rich meal, the desire for further food disappears. Fiber also plays a protective role for pre-diabetics, and can lead to lower daily requirements of insulin amongst type 1 diabetics.

Fiber is well known as being important in the improving blood sugar control, lowering cholesterol levels and providing folate, thereby reducing the risk of complications like heart disease. Considerable research is available as evidence for the role of fiber in diabetes.

Research has shown vegetarian diets promote a healthy weight since they are often lower in calories than non-vegetarian diets. They also improve blood sugar control and insulin response since eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and nuts — features of a vegetarian diet — can improve blood sugar control and make your body more responsive to insulin. Most importantly, a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease since it is cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat and usually high in soluble fiber.

The new study ‒ published in the journal Diabetes Care ‒ has confirmed that vegetarians are lower than non-vegetarians on all counts including blood sugar, blood pressure, waist size, body mass index (BMI), and blood fats except cholesterol.

The findings show the vegetarians’ average BMI of 25.7 was four points lower than that of non-vegetarians, who, on average, had BMIs close to 30. However, semi-vegetarians fell in the middle. A BMI greater than 25 is considered overweight, and greater than 30 is considered obese. Moreover, the findings suggested that while vegetarians, on average, were 3 years older than the meat-eaters, they were in better shape and health status.

“I was expecting there should be a difference….but I didn’t expect that it would be that much,” lead researcher Nico Rizzo of Loma Linda University was quoted by Reuters as saying, adding he was not sure what’s behind the differences and wondered whether it was primarily the meat intake, the plant food intake or a combination of both.

It’s possible that diet is not the cause because the research showed only an association between food choices and health factors, not cause-and-effect. High BMI, for instance, one of the traits that make up the metabolic syndrome profile, itself contributes to high blood pressure, and indirectly, blood sugar, and thereby potentially raising a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes.

One of the shortcomings of the study is that the researchers didn’t study the reasons behind the differences between vegetarians and non-vegetarians even though the scientists suggest it may be caused by the meat intake, eating the plant food or a combination of both. The researchers also did not follow the subjects over the long term to see whether those who abstained from meat actually had lower rates of diabetes or heart disease.

The data for this research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, came from the Adventist Health Study 2, a long term study of Seventh Day Adventists. This Christian religious group has considerably more vegetarians than the general population.

In this study, 35 percent of the subjects did not eat meat, whereas only about five percent of all Americans are vegetarian. One of the differences Rizzo discovered between the groups was age. Vegetarians, on average, were 3 years older than the meat-eaters. “Even though they’re older, they’re in better shape,” Rizzo said. “That’s something I found quite interesting.”

Mystery Mechanism Protects Some Diabetics From Developing Complications

WHY are some diabetics free of complications? Researchers are now asking the question the other way around. They want to know why some diabetic patients do not develop complications. What is protecting them? It seems some people with diabetes possess yet-unidentified factors that reduce the risk for and even prevent them from developing diabetes-related complications, despite living with the disease for decades.

If researchers can identify the mechanisms protecting these individuals ‒ who are clearly different because something protects them from devastating complications ‒ then it might be possible to develop drugs that can do the same thing.

I had reported end January that what current research provides is an admission that the fundamental mechanisms that create the environment for the development of diabetes complications are still very much unknown.

One aspect of the disease though that is very well documented is the damage that the disease wreaks on an individual’s blood vessels. Diabetes does not kill the individual but the complications often do.

Among the top of the list of complications is cardiovascular disease, as diabetics have three times of the risk compared to non-diabetics. The small blood vessels are also damaged. Nearly 70 percent of patients would have suffered from kidney damage leading to end stage renal failure. Many others suffer from eye complications, with nearly two percent of these diabetics going blind eventually.

Still, despite decades of intensive research on diabetes complications, the fundamental mechanisms are not yet fully known. Neither it is possible to prevent or treat the damage of the blood vessels that affects a majority of all diabetics.

“The blood vessels and other organs of the body are sugar coated and become stiff. It is reminiscent of a premature biological aging,” says Peter Nilsson of the Lund University Diabetes Centre in Sweden who isstudying diabetics with no complications in Sweden.

just-published study conducted by the Joslin Diabetes Center on people who have lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years presents a strong case for the existence of a protective mechanism in some individuals that allows them to live relatively free of the problems typically associated with long-term duration of diabetes. These mechanisms, the study found, may be different for microvascular (such as kidney, nerve and eye disease) than macrovascular complications (such as heart disease).

press release issued by the American Diabetes Association yesterday quotes lead researcher George King, Chief Scientific Officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School saying: “If we can identify what constitutes this protective mechanism, we have the potential to induce such protections in others living with diabetes…That’s huge.”

The Joslin researchers looked at 351 U.S. residents known as the “Medalist” cohort and found that a subgroup of people who had lived with type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years remained free from such complications as proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), a serious eye disease that can lead to blindness (42.6 percent of them); nephropathy, or kidney damage (86.9 percent of them); neuropathy, or nerve damage (39.4 percent); and cardiovascular disease (51.5 percent). Of those who did not develop PDR, 96 percent with no retinopathy progression in the first 17 years of their disease never experienced a worsening of symptoms, meaning that they likely possessed some type of protection specific to this complication.

Surprisingly, glycemic control was not a factor in providing this protective mechanism.

“That doesn’t mean of course that glycemic control doesn’t help to prevent complications. Numerous other studies have shown that it unquestionably does. In this case, it means only that there is a separate, protective mechanism in play that is not related to glycemic control that also helps to protect against diabetes-related problems. We are still working on identifying just what that is,” King said.

It’s important to note that most of the people in this study developed type 1 diabetes before strict glycemic control was even possible or used as the standard of medical care, the researchers write. The people in this study likely lived for several decades, therefore, without maintaining strict control.

The study also found that those with high plasma carboxyethyl-lysine and pentosidine, or advanced glycation end products (AGEs), were 7.2 times more likely to have some kind of complication than those who had low levels of this combination of AGEs. (AGEs are compounds that develop in the body after long exposure to high glucose levels and have generally been regarded as playing a role in diabetes-related complications.)

However, those with other types of AGE molecules exhibited protective features. Thus, this study suggests that not all AGEs are alike in their actions and raises the exciting possibility that some AGEs may be markers for protection against one or more diabetic complications.

In an accompanying editorial titled The Question Is, My Dear Watson, Why Did the Dog Not Bark?, Dr. Aaron Vinik, Director, Eastern Virginia Medical School Diabetes Research Center, writes that “the accumulation of AGEs may be one of the important factors in metabolic memory,” a phenomenon in which an initial period of good glycemic, lipid and blood pressure control results in a prolonged period of health benefits that last beyond the period of control.

However, while it is clear that for some there is a protective mechanism at play, it’s unclear whether metabolic memory is playing a role because glycemic control was not considered important until 1993, long after the study began.

What’s most interesting, Vinik points out, is that sRAGE (the circulating soluble receptor for AGEs) is deficient in those who have the most severe complications, and is present at high levels in those with the most longevity. “If this is the missing link, it is huge for the possible emergence of a new biomarker and the potential for therapy that might increase circulating sRAGE or sRAGE itself,” he said.

Aspirin May Help Diabetics With Kidney Disease Avoid Heart Complications

A new study from a team of Japanese researchers at the Nara Medical University shows that low daily doses of aspirin may help reduce risk of heart disease in patients who have both type 2 diabetes and kidney disease.

Heart disease, as we all know, is the most common cause of death for individuals who have type 2 diabetes because persistently high levels of blood sugar in the veins causes inflammation that leads atherosclerosis, which is a hardening of the arteries that causes the heart to work harder, eventually causing it to wear out.

The research, published in the journal Diabetes Care, concludes that there appears to be a strong relationship between diabetes-induced kidney disease and aspirin therapy. If future studies bear out these results, aspirin could provide a simple solution to a major problem that affects millions of people.

“The current study demonstrated that low-dose aspirin therapy reduced the risk of atherosclerotic events in type 2 diabetic patients,” the researchers wrote in their report.

For the study, researchers gave a group of more than 2,500 participants who had type 2 diabetes and kidney disease either an 81 mg daily dose of aspirin, a 100 mg daily dose or no aspirin at all. The researchers then tracked the participants’ medical records for nearly five years. During this time they checked for instances of stroke, heart disease and peripheral artery disease.

They found that individuals who were in either of the groups that received aspirin had significantly fewer atherosclerosis-related incidences than those who did not receive aspirin.

“The current study demonstrated that low-dose aspirin therapy reduced the risk of atherosclerotic events in type 2 diabetic patients,” the researchers conclude.

All Diabetics Should Take Statins, Say Experts

The European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) has recommended that all people suffering from diabetes should be taking statins, as research showed that the evidence for their effectiveness in reducing cardiovascular risk in diabetics, and even people without diabetes, is incontrovertible.

Professor John Betteridge, of University College London Medical School, pointed out at the EASD annual meeting in September 2010 that all people with diabetes should be taking statins to reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke, although he also warned that they should avoid any drug interactions with other medications being taken.

Betteridge has analysed a number of studies into the use of statins, such as the CollaborativeAtoRvastatin Diabetes Study (CARDS), funded by Diabetes UK, the Department of Health and Pfizer, which examined their benefits in people with type 2 diabetes who did not already have evidence ofcardiovascular disease .

In the CARDS study, atorvastatin 10mg/day was shown to reduce major cardiovascular events by 37 per cent and strokes by 48 per cent, reinforcing guidelines issued by the Joint British Society (JBS) regarding targets for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in this high-risk group.

Betteridge argues that statins are safe if taken appropriately and drug interactions avoided, as they can lead to serious side effects, especially when patients are on a variety of drug treatments. Statins should also not be used by pregnant women at least six weeks before conception.

He realises that statins don’t always get a good press, and that many diabetics will be wary of this advice, but he points out that the evidence shows them to be highly effective in preventing major vascular events in patients with diabetes.

However, the idea of taking statins to offset the effects of junk food has been criticised by diabetes experts. New research had recommended that fast food outlets should give out free statin pills as a way of combating the impact of unhealthy food, as they can reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, which is why they are normally prescribed to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

There are now worries that using statins could encourage people to lead unhealthier lives, eat more fast food and therefore increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Although studies have found that a single, cheap statin pill could offset the increased risk to the heart caused by the fat in a cheeseburger and a small milkshake, there are concerns that it is both irresponsible and dangerous to promote their use as a quick fix to counteract the effects of an unhealthy diet.

Zoe Harrison, Care Advisor at the charity Diabetes UK, said Statins can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering the bad cholesterol in our blood which can be raised due to a high-fat diet. However, they don’t prevent all the side effects that result from an excessive intake of fatty food. Statins also have some serious side effects – such as damage to the liver, pancreas and muscles – which is why they should always be prescribed by your doctor who can then closely monitor how you are responding to the medication.

An Overview of Diabetes and Statins

Diabetes and statins have a complex relationship and are the focus of intense patient and healthcare debate. Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Statins are used in diabetes care due to the knowledge that people with diabetes face a greater likelihood of heart attack and stroke.

When used alongside good blood glucose control and other medication, the case for statins argues that they cut cholesterol levels and lower the risk of a cardiovascular event.

Type 2 diabetes in particular is certainly a disease of the circulatory system, and this argument has some weight.

How can I lower my risk of cardiovascular problems without taking statins?

There are many ways to lower your risk of stroke and cholesterol levels. These include stopping smoking and controlling your blood pressure. Diet and exercise can help to lower raised blood pressure, and a healthy lifestyle can cut cholesterol levels. However, some doctors prescribe statins to help reduce cholesterol levels.

What do statins do for people with diabetes?

Statins slow the action of the liver in manufacturing cholesterol, causing blood cholesterol levels to fall.

Do statins work for people with diabetes?

Statins definitely lower cholesterol, and major studies have shown that the risk of heart attack and stroke plummets amongst people with diabetes taking statins. Results indicate that statins can prevent cardiovascular disease by reducing heart attack and stroke risks.

What are the side effects of statins?

Statins are usually well-tolerated by people with diabetes. Side effects can include:

• Headaches

• Affect on liver function

• Stomach problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, flatulence, diarrhoea and vomiting

• Rashes

• Disorder of the muscles (myopathy)

Shouldn’t all people with diabetes therefore take statins?

Statins are the subject of current and ongoing healthcare debate when it comes to diabetes patients. Further research is in progress to make the wider use of statins in diabetes care more clear.

Often, people under 40 may not benefit from taking a statin.

A statin is also just one part of diabetes care and shouldn’t be used instead of good diet, exercise, smoking and excess drinking avoidance.

Source: diabetes.co.uk

Retirement Reduces Fatigue, Depression

Retirement leaves people much less mentally and physically fatigued and to a smaller degree less depressed, reports UPI quoting Swedish researchers.

However, Dr. Hugo Westerlund of Stockholm University in Sweden also finds retirement does not change the risk of chronic illnesses such as respiratory disease, diabetes and heart disease.

Westerlund and colleagues say the study of 11,246 men and 2,858 women in France who were surveyed annually from 1989 to 2007 — seven years prior to retirement and seven years after retirement. Seventy-two percent retired between the ages of 53 and 57, but all retired by the age of 64.

In the year before retirement, 25 percent suffered from depressive symptoms and 7 percent were diagnosed with one or more of respiratory disease, diabetes, heart disease or stroke.

“If work is tiring for many older workers, the decrease in fatigue could simply reflect removal of the source of the problem … furthermore, retirement may allow people more time to engage in stimulating and restorative activities, such as physical exercise,” Westerlund and colleagues say in a statement.

The research results “indicate that fatigue may be an underlying reason for early exit from the labor market and decreased productivity, and redesign of work, healthcare interventions or both may enable a larger proportion of older people to work in full health.”

The findings are published in the British Medical Journal.

Diabetes: Shortage Of Vascular Surgeons In India Costs 80,000 Limbs Every Year

India has less than 100 vascular surgeons since the establishment of the first department of vascular surgery in 1978. The states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Manipur don’t have any vascular surgeon.

No government-run hospital in the country’s capital New Delhi, including the premiere All India Institute of Medical Sciences, has a department of vascular surgery. Chennai and Bangalore in the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka respectively, with 20 surgeons each, are slightly better off.

Only last year, the number of seats for post-graduate degree in vascular surgery in the country was raised from four to eight in medical colleges. Including diploma holders, the country produces only 16 vascular surgeons yearly. This, experts feel, should be trebled in two years.

“A large number of people wheeled in for amputations are either trauma victims or long-term diabetics. At least 40% of people with decade-long diabetes develop vascular problems. In a country where more than 40 million people are estimated to have diabetes, the number of people estimated to have vascular problems is large. Add to this road accident victims day and you know why there is a need to produce a greater number of vascular surgeons,” says Dr Sekar, who is also the president of the Vascular Society of India. Though there are no clear statistics on amputations, it is estimated that at least one lakh people lose a limb every year. Of these, nearly, 80,000 amputations are avoidable.

Sakthiraj Ekambaram, 29, a chronic smoker, complained of pain every time he walked for more than 20 minutes. “I had to stop for a couple of minutes and walk again. The doctor sent me to the gym,” he said. Luckily, Sakthiraj, decided to consult a vascular surgeon for the wound that did not heal for long. “That is when I discovered that the blood supply to my legs was very low. My feet were cold unlike other parts where blood flowed and I did not have good sensation on my feet. I underwent a procedure that saved my legs,” he said. But not all patients are as lucky has Sakthiraj, says Dr Sekar.

Pulling out the case sheets of a 40-year-old patient, he continues, “A chronic diabetic, this patient had one of his limbs amputated last year. This year, he had his other leg amputated too. Almost 50% of diabetics who go in for amputation of one limb, lose their second limb in another year. A vascular disease is an indicator of a heart disease because if there are blocks in the leg, there can be blocks in the heart too,” says Dr Sekar.

“When people are disabled, the burden is high on the family and the government,” says Dr Ravul Jindal, the only qualified vascular surgeon in Chandigarh. “Some patients who can afford the treatment are referred to doctors in other states. The others undergo amputation surgeries. These are done by general surgeons or orthopedic surgeons to prevent infection from spreading to other parts of the body,” says Dr Jindal.

The society is now waging an aggressive war with the Union health ministry and at least ten state governments urging them to start new departments in vascular surgery. Vascular surgeons say they consider several options before deciding to remove a limb.

“The blood vessels in the legs and hands are just like arteries and veins in the heart. If there is a block in arteries of the heart, it can reduce supply of blood and cause heart attack, which is death of the heart muscle. When similar things happen on the leg, it leads to death of muscles in the leg. They begin to rot (gangrene). Just like the heart, we have options of using balloons to remove blocks by a procedure called angioplasty, place drug coated thin wires in the vessels to prevent clots or even do a by-pass graft,” says Dr Paresh Pai, consultant vascular surgeon at Mumbai’s Lilavati Hospital. “But on most occasions, patients are refered to us very late. We want to create awareness among doctors and patients on foot care. For instance, if a wound remains unhealed for long, doctors should first check if there is adequate blood supply and restore it. For this, the patient should come in early,” he says.

Representatives from the association would meet Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and health secretary Sujatha Rao to discuss a road map. First, they want the ministry to increase the number of seats for post-graduate degree in vascular surgery. “At present, there are only seven training centers for vascular surgery, training 12 students every year. We want them to double the number of seats in a year and increase it by at least three times by 2012,” Dr Sekar said.

Thank you Pushpa Narayan/Times of India
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