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Virginia Festival of the Book
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Link between diabetes and heart disease being studied
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Dr. Jerry L. Nadler

Link between diabetes and heart disease being studied

By Suzanne Morris

Researchers at the U.Va. Health System are trying to determine why so many people with diabetes also suffer from heart disease. Dr. Jerry L. Nadler, chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, and his colleagues have been awarded nearly $1 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation to examine the link between the two diseases.

"Diabetes is the third leading cause of heart disease in this country, and heart disease is the leading cause of death among people with diabetes, so this is a very important field of study. We hope that a better understanding of this relationship will in time lead to significant treatment breakthroughs," Nadler said.

According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are up to four times more likely to develop heart disease, and are more likely to die from it, than those without diabetes. So far, the reasons for the strong correlation remain unclear.

Nadler and his colleagues are studying whether high blood sugar or glucose, the hallmark of uncontrolled diabetes, may precipitate the early stages of heart disease. Their research will try to isolate the role elevated glucose levels play in damaging cells that line the blood vessels, ultimately causing narrowing of the arteries, called atherosclerosis. They are also evaluating the role impaired insulin action, known as "insulin-resistance," plays in causing heart disease in people with diabetes. Findings may eventually lead to new treatments to reduce the incidence and effects of heart disease in people with diabetes.

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the body's ability to regulate glucose levels. The ADA estimates 16 million Americans have diabetes. Symptoms may include extreme thirst, frequent urination, blurry vision, unexplained weight loss and fatigue. In addition to heart disease, diabetes can lead to other severe complications, such as blindness, kidney disease and stroke.


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