Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Tight Control Cuts Diabetes Heart Harm

Intensive Insulin Halves Heart Disease, Death in Type 1 Diabetes
WebMD Health News

Dec. 21, 2005 -- Tight blood sugar control with insulin slashes the risk of heart disease for people with type 1 diabetes in half, new research shows.

Two-thirds of people with diabetes die of heart attack or stroke. The risk of heart disease is 10 times higher in people with type 1 diabetes than in those without diabetes.

But a landmark study shows that by keeping their blood sugar under tight control, people with type 1 diabetes can reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease by 57%. Saul Genuth, MD, of Case Western Reserve University, chaired the study.

"We see a greater reduction in [heart attack, stroke, and death] from intensive blood glucose control than from drugs that lower blood pressure and cholesterol," Genuth says, in a news release. "This therapy should begin as early as possible and be maintained as long as possible."

It's likely that tight blood-sugar control will help people with type 2 diabetes, too. But proof that the benefits outweigh the risks won't arrive until a study of such patients is finished in 2009. Nevertheless, the current report -- in the Dec. 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine -- powerfully links high blood sugar to heart disease.

Long-Lasting Effects

Beginning in 1983, Genuth and colleagues signed up 1,441 type 1 diabetes patients. Half were assigned to what then was normal treatment: daily blood or urine testing for sugar levels, and one or two insulin shots a day.

The other half of patients got intensive treatment. They checked their blood-sugar levels at least four times a day, and took insulin injections three or more times a day or used an insulin pump. Their goal was to keep their HbA1c level -- a measure of average blood sugar over the past two to three months -- at less than 6%.

Over the 6.5-year study, the intensive-treatment group averaged an HbA1c level of 7.4%, while the normal-treatment group averaged 9.1%.

When the first phase of the study ended in 1993, normal-treatment patients were offered intensive treatment. Over the next decade, their HbA1c levels dropped. During that same time, the average HbA1c level for the original intensive-treatment group went up. Soon, both groups had the same HbA1c level.

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner