More than 400 million people, worldwide, have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. As is often the case with diabetes, people also suffer from cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, amputation, eye disease, and neuropathy, just to name a few. Interestingly enough, however, a study in Australia, conducted on Australian patients with type 2 diabetes, has shown a decline in cardiovascular disease and stroke. What could be the leading cause behind these findings? What can diabetics in the United States learn from their results? How can diabetics continue to improve their health and well being, thus suffering from even fewer ailments? At the end of the day, whether you or a loved one is diagnosed with diabetes, we will hopefully come to some solid conclusions about the possible decline in heart attacks and strokes, and what you can do to improve your quality of life.
The Australian Study: Phases 1 and 2
The study of type 2 diabetes and heart attacks and strokes came out of the University of Western Australia and Fremantle Hospital in Fremantle, Australia. It was published by the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and it ultimately concluded that fewer people with diabetes are having heart attacks and strokes than was the case twenty years ago.
Phase 1 began in 1993 and ended in 2001. It had 1,291 participants who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Their cardiovascular health was compared to 5,159 people who had not been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Phase 2 began in 2008 and it ended in 2016. It compared 1,509 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes with 6,036 who had not been diagnosed.
The results of Phase 2 of the study yielded fewer heart attacks, strokes, heart failure hospitalizations, and leg or foot amputations than the results from Phase 1.
There could be several different reasons for these findings, specific to Australia.
Perhaps the most important thing is that Australia offers universal health care to its citizens, which may mean that more people are getting the regular care that they need. Even people without insurance can receive health care. In addition, however, the Australian population is about 10 years behind the United States when it comes to the rate of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Their numbers may be lagging across the board.
But a look at the data from the United States shows a similar decline in the United States’ population of diabetics. The cause of such changes may be due to several factors.
Potential Factors at Play in the Decline of Heart Attacks and Strokes in the United States
There are several potential reasons as to why people are experiencing fewer cardiovascular accidents. For one, the medication in the United States has changed drastically in the past 20 years.
20 years ago, drugs such as sulfonylureas were used (for example, Glucophage), and these drugs are known to INCREASE cardiovascular risks. Today, however, drugs such as statin medications can actually work to decrease cardiovascular risks. If most patients were prescribed these drugs, it is obvious as to why we are seeing a decline in cardiovascular accidents.
In addition, today’s hypertension guidelines have helped to decrease the recommended goals for blood pressure. Such regulations may make it more difficult for people to reach dangerous blood pressure levels, which result in increased cardiovascular risks.
Perhaps most significantly, however, is people’s gradual change in lifestyle.
Sugar is the single most detrimental substance to both people with diabetes, and without. It wreaks havoc on the body’s natural systems, and is addictive, which makes things worse.
As people begin to change their lifestyles by eating less sugar (or no sugar at all), exercising regularly, and eating whole foods, they start to notice certain health benefits. Regular exercise helps to keep the heart in shape. Healthy food helps keep the body in balance. Combined with education and new and improved medication and drugs, many people with diabetes are able to keep their head above the water when it comes to cardiovascular failure, and can even turn their conditions around.
Conclusion: How to Move Forward with this Information
Studies can reveal promising pieces of information, but this does not mean that we have found any answers. The real work has yet to be done: curing and preventing diabetes altogether.
It is best to not rely on any medication to keep your heart health in balance. Just because a study shows that certain medications may help protect against heart attack and stroke does not mean that people with diabetes can go back to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Before drawing any conclusions of your own, it is best to speak with your doctor to learn more about the lessened risk of heart attacks and strokes. And, remember to take a look at your personal health to see if you are still at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.