Sunday, July 30, 2006

A new Canadian study indicates that diabetics have the same risk of cardiovascular disease as someone who is 15 years older. The Eye on Health Team spoke with a local heart surgeon who is not surprised by the findings.

Researchers found, on average, a 40-year-old diabetic has the same risk for heart disease as a non-diabetic at age 55.

Las Vegas cardiovascular surgeon, Matthew Cooper, says evidence of diabetes shows up in pre-operative angiograms. "Because diabetics tend to have very diffuse and very severe disease. And we often say that their arteries looked pruned. That is, they're very small like the small branches of a tree branch," Dr. Cooper said.

The narrowing effect which diabetes has on blood vessels can sometimes cause an enlarged heart. If the diabetic patient winds up needing a procedure such as a bypass, their outcome and recovery is less certain.

"Dr. Cooper continued, "Diabetes is a significant risk factor in patients we operate on. And when there's poor left-ventricle function, the left ventricle being the main pumping chamber of the heart, that really is the main determinant of long-term survival."

Dr. Cooper says that even close monitoring of blood glucose levels is not a guaranteed protection against heart disease. Proper diabetes management, including exercise, improves your odds.

"Individuals who tightly control their sugars, in general usually take better care of themselves overall. The better shape you're in, the better you're able to handle any additional insult, whether that be progression of your heart disease or anything else that comes along," he explained.

Dr. Cooper says diabetics who smoke are taking an even bigger risk. That combo can be lethal on the heart.


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