Elevated Blood Sugar and Your Heart

Hyperglycemia can injure the heart, even in individuals without a history of either cardiovascular disease or diabetes, according to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and reported in Newswise. An elevated hemoglobin A1C (which is a sign of chronic high blood sugar) is linked to minute levels of a protein in the blood that's a marker for heart damage. These findings appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"Hyperglycemia and diabetes are known to be associated with an increased risk for heart attack and coronary disease, and our study sheds some light on what might be happening," senior study author Elizabeth Selvin, Ph.D., MPH, told Newswise. "Our results suggest that chronically elevated glucose levels may contribute to heart damage."

Adds Tara Narula, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City: "We know that patients with diabetes are at an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease so it's kind of a no-brainer that people with pre-diabetes are at risk as well."

Damage to the heart can occur without the person actually feeling it, Narula says. "One of the messages that we try to get across is that heart disease can be silent and you need to have preventive processes in place," she says. While individuals with diabetes are screened for cardiovascular disease, patients with pre-diabetes also should be screened, Narula says. "We should be more aggressive with our patients who are not full-blown diabetics but who are heading in that direction," she says.

Help keep your heart healthy by:

  • Taking control of what you can in terms of lifestyle habits. Diet is one area you can be in charge of, Narula advises. "We counsel patients to follow a low-sugar, low-carb diet," she says. "We encourage a diet that is higher in fiber."
  • Increasing your level of exercise, Narula says.
  • If you're a smoker, quitting. Smoking is also a risk factor in cardiovascular disease.
  • Monitoring your blood pressure and doing what needs to be done to keep it in the normal range.
  • Keeping your blood sugar under control, says Spyros Mezitis, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City "Since even mild hyperglycemia can cause heart disease, this is very important," he says.
  • If your blood sugar is running high, take steps to bring it down, advises says Emily Coppedge, RN, diabetes educator at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. "When you are running high, don't have rice or pasta at the next meal," she says. "And look for external reasons that could be causing high blood sugar, such as stress or illness."
  • If you're have pre-diabetes, be aware that your heart health may be compromised by hyperglycemia. "If your blood sugar is inching up and you don't have full-blown diabetes, your condition may be associated with heart disease," Narula says. Knowing this may drive you to take more control of your risk factors. 



"Elevated Glucose Associated with Undetected Heart Damage." 2 February 2012. Web. Newswise.com.