Artery Stiffness May Help Predict Type 2 Diabetes Risk


Having stiffer arteries may increase the risk for developing type 2 diabetes even in the absence of high blood pressure, according to a new study published in the journal Hypertension.

Even though type 2 diabetes doesn’t necessarily involve high blood pressure (hypertension), the two health conditions are highly related. People with type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for high blood pressure than people without diabetes, although following a healthy lifestyle is known to reduce this risk in people with diabetes. Studies have also shown that in people without diabetes, lowering blood pressure based on treatment recommendations may reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes. And certain lifestyle measures are known to potentially improve both blood glucose levels and blood pressure, such as consuming foods rich in beneficial nutrients known as flavonoids and consuming more whole grains.

For the latest study, researchers examined how both blood pressure and arterial stiffness were related to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in a group of 11,156 adults. Having stiffer arteries is related to high blood pressure, since if these blood vessels can’t expand as effectively as they should, the pressure inside them can rise. But not everyone with stiffer arteries has high blood pressure, since blood pressure is also a function of how forcefully the heart pumps blood. So the researchers were interested in looking at whether arterial stiffness was independently linked to the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Participants had their arterial stiffness measured by a process known as brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity, which uses infrared light to measure blood volume changes. The participants were then divided into four groups for analysis — those with normal blood pressure and normal arterial stiffness, those with normal blood pressure but elevated arterial stiffness, those with high blood pressure but normal arterial stiffness, and those with high blood pressure and elevated arterial stiffness.

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Arterial stiffness linked to increased type 2 diabetes risk

Over a median follow-up period of 6.16 years, a total of 768 participants developed diabetes. Not surprisingly, the highest diabetes risk was seen in the group with high blood pressure and elevated arterial stiffness — this group was 2.42 times as likely to develop diabetes as the group without high blood pressure or elevated arterial stiffness. But the next highest diabetes risk was seen in the group with normal blood pressure and elevated arterial stiffness, which was 2.11 times as likely to develop diabetes — demonstrating that arterial stiffness may be a stringer predictor of diabetes risk than blood pressure. After that came the group with high blood pressure and normal arterial stiffness, which was 1.48 times as likely to develop diabetes.

“We were surprised to find that people with increased arterial stiffness were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, whether they had high blood pressure or not,” said study author Anxin Wang, PhD, a researcher at the China National Clinical Research Center for Neurological Diseases at Beijing Tiantan Hospital, in a news release on the study. “These findings provide new insight into the prevention of type 2 diabetes, indicating that early detection and treatment for high blood pressure and arterial stiffness may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Want to learn more about type 2 diabetes? Read “Diagnostic Tests for Type 2 Diabetes” and “Welcome to Diabetes.”





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