Controlling Blood Sugar Levels May Protect Your Heart For Decades

Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

By Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

A new study has shown that controlling blood sugar levels for between 6 and 7 years has a protective effect against heart disease and stroke, which lasts for up to 30 years. This finding is remarkable confirmation of why it’s so important that those suffering from diabetes, control their symptoms and make positive changes to their lifestyles to minimize the impact of this pervasive illness.

Blood Sugar

The Study

The study, called the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial, or DCCT, monitored participants who underwent strict dietary controls to keep their blood sugar levels from spiking. Each of the 1,441 participants who took part had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and were in a 13 – 39 years age group. The trials were conducted over a 10 year period from 1983 to 1993. After this, the heart disease and stroke incidence rates within the group were monitored for the next two decades. Participants were split into two groups, one group underwent strict controls for their diabetes, the other used standard treatments of the time.

Published findings from previous studies have already indicated that if there is early intervention, and patients control their blood sugar levels in a strict manner, that there is an associated drop in terms of cardiovascular disease and stroke. But this study published this month in Diabetes Care, performed by Dr. Rose Gubitosi-Klug and her colleagues at Cleveland’s Case-Western Reserve University, is the clearest indication yet that the effects of strict diabetic control can last for many decades.

The Findings

The results from the DCCT are impressive:

  • In the strict treatment group, there was a 32% decrease in the incidence of nonfatal heart attacks, stroke, and death due to cardiac arrest.
  • Overall those in the strict treatment group had better blood sugar levels than those in the standard treatment group. This continued throughout the ten year initial trials. However, the difference in blood sugar levels between the two groups was insignificant in the years after the trials ended.
  • The risk of any cardiovascular issue was significantly reduced for the strict treatment group, even after 26 years, on average. They were 30% less likely to have issues compared to the standard treatment group.
  • Those who did continue to control their blood sugar levels after the trials concluded did see a benefit. For every 10% increase in control, there was a reduction of 17% in terms of cardiovascular issues.
  • Overall, those who controlled their diabetes strictly had a much reduced chance of complications associated with diabetes. An effect which lasted for decades.

What’s the Take Away From This Study?

This study seems to indicate that stricter controls of diabetic symptoms will produce effects which can protect a patient’s health for a long time afterwards. It shows how important early intervention can be after diagnosis, but that strict controls in general will save lives. Dr  Gubitosi-Klug and her colleagues hope that the these findings will help to inform patients and their families about future lifestyle changes, and to encourage patients to enter into a strict dietary control as soon as possible. Even for those who have had the disease for many years and not controlled their diet in this way, it seems certain that there will still be a huge benefit to strict controls for them as well.

Source: Reuters and Diabetes Care, online February 9, 2016.


Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

Sripathi R. Kethu, M.D. FACG.

Dr Kethu is a practicing Gastroenterologist. He is a healthcare and real estate entrepreneur. He writes frequently on topics related to health care, healthy living, and physical fitness. He is the author of Amazon’s best-selling book, “The IBS Guide”. He is an avid marathon runner and is on track to finish his 100th marathon in 2024.

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