In light of this finding, blood sugar levels are probably not a good indicator for identifying people at risk for heart attack or stroke, the researchers pointed out.
Cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death around the world, accounts for some 17 million deaths every year, according to background information in the study.
Diabetes expert Dr. Hertzel C. Gerstein, professor of medicine at McMaster University in Canada and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said, "This study confirms that diabetes is a major problem that doubles the risk of heart attacks, stroke and death."
More than one in 10 adults in North America suffers from diabetes, and almost the same number of people have blood sugar levels that put them on the road to becoming diabetic, he noted.
"We are really in the midst of a major epidemic," Gerstein said.
Most of the problems result from the disease not being controlled, he explained. If people with diabetes work with their health care providers to learn about their condition and regulate it, their risks will be lower, he said.
"Make sure you understand about your diabetes and make sure you have a good health care team that can help you do the things you need to do to keep the disease under control and to prevent serious problems," Gerstein advised.
Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of medicine and director of the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, said more work is needed to prevent and treat diabetes.
"This study highlights the need for more aggressive individual efforts and public health measures to prevent diabetes," Fonarow said. "For patients with diabetes, statin therapy, ACE inhibitors and blood pressure control have all been demonstrated to substantially reduce the risk of vascular events."
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