Why diabetes raises heart attack risks

| May 1, 2017

It is common knowledge that having diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Consistently high blood sugar levels are also known to damage blood vessels, contributing to heart disease. But exactly how sugar causes this damage has always been something of a mystery.

Now, researchers have worked out what goes on when the small blood vessels around the heart are exposed to high levels of glucose.1 Because the heart muscle must be constantly supplied with oxygen and nutrients, its blood supply really is a matter of life or death.

Special cells called pericytes, which wrap around the heart’s small blood vessels, play a crucial role by regulating blood flow and also stabilising and repairing any damage to blood vessel linings. Without this protective function of the pericytes, the entire blood vessel becomes unstable and ultimately breaks up.

The new study found that animals with untreated diabetes had a steady decline in the number of small blood vessels around their hearts. It also showed that higher blood glucose levels were associated with a decrease in the pericytes surrounding individual blood vessels. But when the scientists used a genetic therapy that stimulated the growth of pericytes, the little blood vessels supplying the heart grew back again.

While the researchers hope to develop a form of this genetic therapy for use in humans, there may already be natural compounds that support the growth of pericytes. The same kind of break-up of small blood vessels they saw in the hearts of experimental animals also happens in diabetic retinopathy, a form of glucose-related eye damage that can lead to blindness.

Studies suggest polyphenols – likes those in green tea, cocoa, red grapes and pomegranates – help to prevent diabetic retinopathy, in part by preventing the destruction of pericytes.So, it is very likely that these same plant chemicals also owe some of their heart-healthy properties to their ability to protect the pericytes.

In my next blog post, I’ll tell you how an online calculator could predict your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes more accurately than your doctor can.

Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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  1. Hinkel R, Hoewe A, Renner S et al. Diabetes mellitus-induced microvascular destabilization in the myocardium. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017; 69(2):131-143.
  1. Nabavi SF, Barber AJ, Spagnuolo C et al. Nrf2 as molecular target for polyphenols: A novel therapeutic strategy in diabetic retinopathy. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2016; 53(5):293-312.
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Category: Diabetes Risks

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