Helen Colhoun and colleagues report findings from a Scottish registry linkage study regarding contemporary risks for cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality among individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Randomized controlled trials have shown the importance of tight glucose control in type 1 diabetes (T1DM), but few recent studies have evaluated the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality among adults with T1DM. We evaluated these risks in adults with T1DM compared with the non-diabetic population in a nationwide study from Scotland and examined control of CVD risk factors in those with T1DM.
Methods and Findings
The Scottish Care Information-Diabetes Collaboration database was used to identify all people registered with T1DM and aged ≥20 years in 2005–2007 and to provide risk factor data. Major CVD events and deaths were obtained from the national hospital admissions database and death register. The age-adjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR) for CVD and mortality in T1DM (n = 21,789) versus the non-diabetic population (3.96 million) was estimated using Poisson regression. The age-adjusted IRR for first CVD event associated with T1DM versus the non-diabetic population was higher in women (3.0: 95% CI 2.4–3.8, p<0.001) than men (2.3: 2.0–2.7, p<0.001) while the IRR for all-cause mortality associated with T1DM was comparable at 2.6 (2.2–3.0, p<0.001) in men and 2.7 (2.2–3.4, p<0.001) in women. Between 2005–2007, among individuals with T1DM, 34 of 123 deaths among 10,173 who were <40 years and 37 of 907 deaths among 12,739 who were ≥40 years had an underlying cause of death of coma or diabetic ketoacidosis. Among individuals 60–69 years, approximately three extra deaths per 100 per year occurred among men with T1DM (28.51/1,000 person years at risk), and two per 100 per year for women (17.99/1,000 person years at risk). 28% of those with T1DM were current smokers, 13% achieved target HbA1c of <7% and 37% had very poor (≥9%) glycaemic control. Among those aged ≥40, 37% had blood pressures above even conservative targets (≥140/90 mmHg) and 39% of those ≥40 years were not on a statin. Although many of these risk factors were comparable to those previously reported in other developed countries, CVD and mortality rates may not be generalizable to other countries. Limitations included lack of information on the specific insulin therapy used.
Although the relative risks for CVD and total mortality associated with T1DM in this population have declined relative to earlier studies, T1DM continues to be associated with higher CVD and death rates than the non-diabetic population. Risk factor management should be improved to further reduce risk but better treatment approaches for achieving good glycaemic control are badly needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background. People with diabetes are more likely to have cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes. They also have a higher risk of dying prematurely from any cause. Controlling blood sugar (glucose), blood pressure, and cholesterol can help reduce these risks. Some people with type 1 diabetes can achieve tight blood glucose control through a strict regimen that includes a carefully calculated diet, frequent physical activity, regular blood glucose testing several times a day, and multiple daily doses of insulin. Other drugs can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Keeping one's weight in the normal range and not smoking are important ways in which all people, including those with type 1 diabetes can reduce their risks of heart disease and premature death.
Why Was This Study Done? Researchers and doctors have known for almost two decades what patients with type 1 diabetes can do to minimize the complications from the disease and thereby reduce their risks for cardiovascular disease and early death. So for some time now, patients should have been treated and counseled accordingly. This study was done to evaluate the current risks for have cardiovascular disease and premature death amongst people living with type 1 diabetes in a high-income country (Scotland).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find? From a national register of all people with type 1 diabetes in Scotland, the researchers selected those who were older than 20 years and alive at any time from January 2005 to May 2008. This included about 19,000 people who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before 2005. Another 2,600 were diagnosed between 2005 and 2008. They also obtained data on heart attacks and strokes in these patients from hospital records and on deaths from the natural death register. To obtain a good picture of the current relative risks, they compared the patients with type 1 diabetes with the non-diabetic general Scottish population with regard to the risk of heart attacks/strokes and death from all causes. They also collected information on how well the people with diabetes controlled their blood glucose, on their weight, and whether they smoked.
They found that the current risks compared with the general Scottish population are quite a bit lower than those of people with type 1 diabetes in earlier decades. However, people with type 1 diabetes in Scotland still have much higher (more than twice) the risk of heart attacks, strokes, or premature death than the general population. Moreover, the researchers found a high number of deaths in younger people with diabetes from coma—caused by either too much blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or too little (hypoglycemia). Severe hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia happen when blood glucose control is poor. When the scientists looked at test results for HbA1c levels (a test that is done once or twice a year to see how well patients controlled their blood sugar over the previous 3 months) for all patients, they found that the majority of them did not come close to controlling their blood glucose within the recommended range.
When the researchers compared body mass index (a measure of weight that takes height into account) and smoking between the people with type 1 diabetes and the general population, they found similar proportions of smokers and overweight or obese people.
What Do these Findings Mean? The results represent a snapshot of the recent situation regarding complications from type 1 diabetes in the Scottish population. The results suggest that within this population, strategies over the past two decades to reduce complications from type 1 diabetes that cause cardiovascular disease and death are working, in principle. However, there is much need for further improvement. This includes the urgent need to understand why so few people with type 1 diabetes achieve good control of their blood sugar, and what can be done to improve this situation. It is also important to put more effort into keeping people with diabetes from taking up smoking or getting them to quit, as well as preventing them from getting overweight or promoting weight reduction, because this could further reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and premature death.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001321
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, a service of the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, has information on heart disease and diabetes, on general complications of diabetes, and on the HbA1c test (on this site and some others called A1C test) that measures control of blood sugar over the past 3 months
Diabetes.co.uk provides general information on type 1 diabetes, its complications, and what people with the disease can do to reduce their risks
The Canadian Diabetes Association offers a cardiovascular risk self-assessment tool and other relevant information
The American Diabetes Association has information on the benefits and challenges of tight blood sugar control and how it is tested
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation funds research to prevent, cure, and treat type 1 diabetes
Diabetes UK provides extensive information on diabetes for patients, carers, and clinicians