Why are diabetics at such high risk for heart attacks?

A recent study from Washington University in St Louis may explain why more than 75 percent of diabetics die of heart disease (Journal for the American College of Cardiology, February 7, 2006). The heart muscle of diabetics uses a much higher percentage of fat for energy than that of non-diabetics, to markedly increase risk for heart attacks.

The energy source for heart muscle is mostly sugar and fat, and to a lesser degree, protein. Muscles need far more oxygen to process fat than to process sugar. The blood supply to heart muscle comes from large arteries on the outside of the heart. Diabetics have narrowed arteries because high blood sugar levels cause plaques to form and reduce the diameter of the coronary arteries. The increased need for blood flow from burning fat and the decreased blood flow from narrowed arteries put diabetics at very high risk for heart attacks, heart failure and sudden death. The increased use of oxygen increases blood levels of oxidants that further damage the inner linings of arteries.

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