Hemoglobin A1c: A Modifiable Predictor of Heart Disease
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that hemoglobin A1c ( HbA1c ) — a measure of long-term blood glucose level — predicts heart disease risk in both diabetics and non-diabetics.
An elevated blood glucose level is the defining feature of diabetes, but until now it was unclear whether elevated glucose levels contributed independently to increasing heart-disease risk.
“Our results suggest that improving blood-glucose control may reduce heart disease risk,” said Elizabeth Selvin, lead author of the study and at Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “
For non-diabetics, lifestyle modifications, such as increased physical activity, weight loss and eating a healthful, low-glycemic, index diet rich in fiber, fruit and vegetables, may not only help prevent diabetes, but also reduce the risk of heart disease,” she said.
According to the study, the current target for “good” glycemic control established by the American Diabetes Association is an HbA1c value less than 7 percent. However, the researchers’ analysis suggest that heart disease risk begins to increase at values even below 7 percent.
They found that those study participants without diabetes but who had “ high normal ” HbA1c levels ( approximately 5 percent to 6 percent ) were at an increased heart disease risk, even after accounting for other factors such as age, cholesterol level, blood pressure, body mass index and smoking.
Non-diabetic persons with HbA1c levels of 6 percent or higher had almost a two-fold greater heart disease risk compared to persons with an HbA1c level below 4.6 percent.
The results suggest we should be concerned about elevated blood sugar levels in non-diabetics as well as diabetics. An important next step is to incorporate strategies for lowering HbA1c.
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