We have recently shown a high prevalence of diabetes and obesity in rural Cameroon, despite an improved lifestyle. Diabetes in rural Africa remains underdiagnosed and its role in increasing risk of atherosclerosis in these populations is unknown. We investigated the prevalence of carotid atherosclerosis and cardiovascular risk factors in a population of subjects with recently-diagnosed diabetes from rural Cameroon.
In a case-control study, carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) was measured in 74 subjects with diabetes (diagnosed <2 years), aged 47–85 and 109 controls comparable for age and sex. Subjects were recruited during a health campaign conducted in April 2009. Blood glucose control (HbA1c, fasting blood glucose) and major cardiovascular risk factors (complete lipid panel, blood pressure) were also measured. Mean carotid IMT was higher in subjects with diabetes than healthy controls at each scanned segment (common, internal carotid and bulb) (P<0.05), except the near wall of the left bulb. Vascular stiffness tended to be higher and pressure-strain elastic modulus of the left carotid was increased in subjects with diabetes than controls (P<0.05), but distensibility was similar between the two groups. At least one plaque >0.9 mm was found in 4%, 45.9% and 20% of diabetic subjects at the common, bulb or internal carotid, respectively. Only 25% of patients had an HbA1c<7%, while over 41.6% presented with marked hyperglycemia (HbA1c>9%). The prevalence of diabetic subjects with abnormal levels of LDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol or blood pressure was 45%, 16.6%, 15% and 65.7%, respectively.
Carotid thickness is increased in subjects with diabetes from a rural area of Cameroon, despite the relatively recent diagnosis. These findings and the high rate of uncontrolled diabetes in this population support the increasing concern of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in African countries and indicate the need for multifaceted health interventions in urban and rural settings.