According to the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org), 29 million people have diabetes mellitus or impaired glucose tolerance, a “prediabetic” condition. This data also indicates that approximately 47 million individuals in the US have “metabolic syndrome,” characterized by high blood pressure, an abnormal cholesterol profile and obesity – conditions associated with insulin resistance and the likelihood of developing diabetes in the future. The majority of people with diabetes have type 2, or the non-insulin-dependent form of the disease. The prevalence of diabetes in the US is expected to double over the next 20 years.
Diabetes is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The disease can affect the microvascular (small vessel) arteries of the body, resulting in eye and kidney disease. In addition, elevated levels of glucose in the bloodstream may also impair the nervous system, resulting in abnormal reflexes and disabling symptoms (i.e., numbness, impaired sensation) of the lower extremities. Patients with type 2 diabetes also have an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. In fact, cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death in type 2 diabetics. Heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) and/or cerebrovascular incidents (strokes) account for more than half of the deaths in adults with diabetes.
At Lahey Clinic, there are numerous programs to help prevent or treat cardiovascular disease in diabetic patients. In addition, a number of research studies are evaluating whether one form of diabetes treatment is better than another when coronary artery disease is present. Lahey Clinic is participating in a clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health in which patients are followed closely over a five-year period to determine the best treatment for their heart disease and diabetes. Lahey's Department of Cardiovascular Medicine also has an active research program focused on the relationship between diabetes and coronary artery disease and works closely with the Endocrinology and Diabetes & Metabolism Departments to coordinate the care of patients with both of these diseases. At Lahey Clinic, we feel collaboration between subspecialties is the best way to provide care for diabetic patients, as their disease puts them at high cardiovascular risk.