Alarming results from a study conducted by American Diabetes Association and the University of Washington indicate that intensive efforts to lower blood pressure in older diabetics may actually increase the risk of dying from heart disease. These new findings fly in the face of the medical community’s long standing belief that aggressively lowering blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes is essential to good cardiovascular health in diabetics.
During the study, of those participants that were assigned to obtain their blood sugar levels to normal, there were 54 more deaths than in a group whose levels were not as controlled. These patients were in the study for four years on average when the investigators called a stop to this intensive sugar lowering and decided to put them on a less intense regulated course. These results don’t necessarily mean that lowering blood sugar is insignificant, it actually protects you against kidney disease, blindness and amputations.
“Telling these patients to get their blood sugar up will be very difficult!” (Dr. Hirsh, researcher)
Some insurance companies pay doctors extra if their diabetic patients get their levels very low, but now, patients will need to have this blood sugar at a normal level. Many type 2 diabetics also take pills in addition to the ones they take for diabetes and other medical conditions in order to lower this blood pressure.
Are drugs the cause?
The researchers questioned whether there were any drugs or drug combinations that might have been to blame. They found none, said Dr. Denise G. Simons-Morton, a project officer for the study at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Hirsch indicated that it might be possible that patients with diabetes who reduce their blood pressure too fast can actually worsen blood vessel disease in the eyes. Reducing blood pressure slowly, however, protects blood vessels.
Researchers and doctors are still investigating whether there is, indeed, a specific drug that may be the culprit, or whether the increased risk of heart disease is dictated by the patient’s medical history. Meanwhile, they’re trying to get the message out lowering blood pressure should be introduced slowly and under careful medical supervision.