Healthy living

Diabetes doubles risk of heart disease and stroke

Diabetes, heart disease and stroke Behind 1 in 10 deaths due to CVD

Having diabetes doubles your risk of heart disease and stroke, new research has found.

The researchers from the University of Cambridge say that diabetes is now estimated to be behind 1 in every 10 deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD), or about 325,000 deaths a year in industrialised countries.

In the UK alone, around 2.6 miilion people have diabetes, a figure which is thought to be an underestimate. Another half a million people may have the condition but don't yet know it.

The findings come from an analysis of 102 surveys which took place in 25 countries, involving 700,000 people. Each person in the combined studies was tracked for nearly ten years

Having diabetes doubled the risk of a wide range of blood vessel diseases including heart disease and different types of stroke.

However, the researchers discovered that only a small part of the effect of having diabetes could be explained by the usual heart disease risk factors such as dietary fats, blood pressure, and obesity.

The finding suggests that diabetes may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in a different way.

The study also found that, in people without diabetes, higher-than-average blood glucose levels were only weakly related to future heart attacks or strokes. This argues against using blood sugar levels as a test to predict future heart disease, the researchers said.

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the study said: “The message we get from this important research is loud and clear - people should avoid becoming diabetic if they possibly can because it more than doubles your risk of developing heart disease.

“However, the study also found that raised blood sugar itself doesn’t appear to be very important for heart disease risk. So while a blood sugar test will find diabetes, it’s probably not so important as part of a heart risk check.

“If you don’t already have diabetes, you can reduce your chances of getting it by controlling your weight, eating sensibly and doing regular physical activity.

The report is published in this week's Lancet and is to be presented at the American Diabetes Association's 70th Scientific Sessions in Orlando, Florida.

This article was published on Fri 25 June 2010

Image © Olga Gabai -

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