Thursday, 16 August 2007

Diabetes and heart disease. Why the link?

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It's common knowledge that diabetes and heart disease are linked. If you have diabetes, you are much more prone to heart disease than are your non-diabetic counterparts. I've sometimes wondered: why should that be? And here comes the answer, courtesy of a recent Netscape health article.

Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been examining the issue. Their conclusion? It all comes down to how the body metabolizes fat. The heart cells of diabetics lose a lipid (cardiolipin) designed to provide the heart with energy to function properly. Says Dr. Richard Gross, "Diabetic hearts run mostly on fats for fuel because glucose isn't readily available to them." Problem is, the absence of cardiolipin screws up the heart's cell membranes, both in terms of structure and function.

It's all downhill after the cardiolipin disappears. For one thing, the heart muscle cells begin to be starved of energy. Second, harmful substances form in the cells. Both these factors contribute to heart problems down the road. Observes Dr. Gross, "The pieces of the puzzle of diabetic heart disease are now rapidly falling into place. We hope that these kinds of studies will enable physicians to diagnose diabetic cardiovascular disease sooner and treat it earlier."

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