New research shows type 2 diabetes impairs heart function

Oxford scientists have found the first sign that many patients with type 2 diabetes have something wrong with their hearts which has previously been undetected.

More than 90 per cent of all diabetics have type 2 diabetes, and researchers studying a group of type 2 diabetics with no apparent heart problems discovered that their hearts were actually working significantly less efficiently than non-diabetic individuals.

Professor Kieran Clarke led the study at Oxford. “We used a method that was able to identify faults in the heart not detectable by any of the usual tests,” she explained. “This method involved the use of a magnetic resonance scanner to measure energy levels in the heart. What we found was that type 2 diabetic patients have lower energy levels in their heart before this affects cardiovascular function. Put simply, their hearts just don’’t have as much energy as a non-diabetic person’’s – they are less powerful engines.”

This finding explains the high incidence of cardiovascular disease amongst diabetic patients. It also probably explains why patients with type 2 diabetes have limited exercise tolerance, being unable to exercise for as long as non-diabetic subjects. The study also showed a direct correlation between the amount of fatty acids in the patient’’s bloodstream and the impairment of heart energy levels. “Type 2 diabetics are always advised to change their diet and lower their intake of fats and sugar anyway,” said Professor Clarke, “but this acts as an extra incentive. If patients could actually have doctors measuring the improvement in heart energy as their fat and sugar intake goes down, it’’s a real motivation to make beneficial lifestyle changes.”

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