Majority of Type 2 Diabetes Patients At High Risk of Fatal Heart Attack or Stroke, Study Says

According to a recent study, preventing heart attacks and strokes should be an urgent priority among people with type 2 diabetes and their doctors. The study showed that a surprising number of people are at high risk of fatality within the next 10 years from one or the other of these medical crises.

The study was published on World Diabetes Day in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). It found that a whopping 93 percent of type 2 diabetes patients were at high risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke within a decade.

The cross-sectional study was conducted using data from the Information System for the Development of Research in Primary Care (SIDIAP) database, which includes 74 percent of the population of Catalonia, Spain. From these anonymous electronic medical records, researchers extracted the records of 373,185 people aged 18 and over who had received a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes by 31 December 2016.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Robert Kneschke

Of these people, 45.2 percent were female, and the average age was 70.1. 72 percent had high blood pressure, 45 percent were considered obese, and 60 percent had high serum cholesterol. 14 percent were smokers.

Researchers used the ESC guidelines to determine the risk level for a fatal stroke or heart attack for each person in the data set. Very high risk is anything above 10%, high risk is between five and 10 percent, and moderate risk is below five percent. Very high risk also requires a patient to have established cardiovascular disease, at least three cardiovascular risk factors, or other conditions that threaten their health.

53.4 percent of the people studied were found to have a very high risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke within a decade, while 39.6 percent were identified as being at a high risk. Only seven percent had a moderate risk.

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“The most striking result of our study was that the vast majority of patients (93%) had a high or very high risk of fatal events within a decade. Half of patients in the very high-risk group had no history of heart disease, meaning they would not be receiving medications to prevent heart attacks and strokes,” said study author Dr. Manel Mata-Cases, general practitioner for the Catalan Institute of Health in Sant Adrià de Besòs, Barcelona, Spain.

Researchers are concerned that their devastating findings may spell out even more urgent news for people in the U.S. and other areas of the world that already have higher rates of diabetes, heart attack, and stroke than Mediterranean Europe does.

“As far as we know, this study in nearly 375,000 people from a well-validated population-based database illustrates the situation in the Mediterranean for the first time,” Dr. Mata-Cases continues. “Traditionally, cardiovascular risk in the region has been lower than in central and northern Europe or the U.S.; therefore, our results should generate concern and a call for action to prevent heart attacks and strokes in people with type 2 diabetes managed in primary care.”

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Dr. Mata-Cases advises people to mitigate their risk of death by making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol, exercising, reducing caloric intake, and following a Mediterranean-style diet. He also encourages doctors to talk to their patients about their risks and lifestyle choices in order to achieve better results.

“These findings in a primary care setting should fuel the implementation of integrated care,” he says. “Healthy behaviors are the cornerstone of preventing cardiovascular disease and need to be combined with control of blood glucose, serum cholesterol, and blood pressure. GPs and nurses should agree on treatment objectives with patients considering their characteristics and preferences.”

If you’re trying to quit smoking or drinking or eat a healthier diet, you don’t have to do it alone. Join a support group or find a buddy who can keep you accountable. Stay safe and healthy, friends!

Elizabeth Nelson

Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?

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