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Study finds calcium scan may predict if diabetes patients will develop heart disease

Study finds calcium scan may predict if diabetes patients will develop heart disease

Diabetes is a serious condition on its own, as more than 25 million Americans are living with some form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes patients must not only deal with the complications of the disease, but also of an increased risk of developing other medical issues like heart disease. Specifically, people with type 2 diabetes have a two- to four-times greater risk of developing coronary disease in comparison to people without the disease.

Since the risk of developing both issues - type 2 diabetes and heart disease - increases with age, many people rely on a home health care professional to either stay healthy, or live well with one or both of the conditions.

A recent study conducted by scientists from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has found a possible way to better predict which diabetes patients are most at risk of going on to develop heart disease. Researchers tested the use of coronary artery calcium (CAC) tests by creating the Diabetes Heart Study.

The trials looked to see if using CAC offered doctors more thorough information regarding type 2 diabetes patients' risk of coronary disease, instead of solely relying on the Framingham Risk Score. The latter is the most commonly used assessment tool to date. Approximately 1,123 people with type 2 diabetes between the ages of 34 and 86 participated in the study and were followed for 7.4 years.

From the data, scientists found using the CAC test, which uses a CT scan in order to detect calcium build-up in the heart's arteries, did offer new insight that the Framingham test didn't pick up. Dr. Donald Bowden, lead author of the study, and a professor of biochemistry at Wake Forest Baptist, believes the discovery also shows that diabetes treatment is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, patients may benefit from more individualized care in order to thrive.

"Our observations challenge accepted medical knowledge that all people with diabetes have the same risk. CAC is key in predicting the specific risk level," said Bowden. "People at very high risk are 11 times more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases as compared to those at low risk. Diagnosing a more precise risk level should help doctors provide more effective treatments and hopefully improve outcomes."

Eldery care providers can help patients live well with one or both of these conditions by ensuring they eat a well-balanced diet and try to exercise regularly. 

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