BMI predicts heart disease risk in patients with type 2 diabetes

Having diabetes increases your risk of developing heart disease, but researchers have long asserted that many factors might contribute to heart problems in diabetics, including lifestyle, exercise and eating habits.

A team from Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health suggests an easy way to predict cardiovascular disease in diabetics, and it's as simple as measuring their body mass index (BMI).

Study measures plaque buildup in arteries

The research comes from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute study, which is part of a larger research project called faCTor-64. Scientists have been trying to determine if using CT scans to screen for heart disease in diabetic patients could save lives – even if the patients don't have symptoms of heart problems.

The researchers discovered that a major controllable predictor of heart disease was a person's BMI.

"Our study shows there’s a strong linear relationship between BMI and plaque volume and composition," said J. Brent Muhlestein, M.D., lead researcher and co-director of cardiovascular research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah. "So even being a little overweight is associated with more plaque, while being obese is associated with a lot of plaque."

The higher a person's BMI, the greater the risk for heart disease, the findings suggest.

Assessing risk

Based on the findings, researchers said that measuring BMI can be an important tool used in routine medical screenings for patients with type 2 diabetes. According to the study, heart disease causes 75 percent of deaths in patients with diabetes – a number that could easily be reduced with more frequent BMI assessments.

Most methods used to measure plaque buildup in arteries are expensive and invasive, the researchers noted. And since many patients with heart disease don't show symptoms, performing these procedures isn't always recommended.

"It may be that in diabetic patients without any symptoms of heart disease, their BMI could be used to determine if they need a CT scan to screen for plaque buildup," said Muhlestein. "We could then develop a treatment plan for at-risk patients.

Researchers presented their findings at the 2013 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Dallas this week.

Source: Intermountain Medical Center

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