Treating High Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Pays Off

Craig Stoltz Health Guide
  • An important study suggests that aggressively treating cholesterol levels and blood pressure improves the cardiovascular health of diabetics. As usual, the study, which appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is not conclusive. But it's full of implications for people living with Type 2 diabetes.


    What implications, you ask?


    Three Things You Need to Know


    1. Essentially, the study compared two groups of adults with Type 2, with one group having aggressive treatment: getting LDL [bad] cholesterol below 70, and getting blood pressure [systolic, top number] below 115. The other group used more common, less aggressive targets (cholesterol 100, blood pressure 130). The people treated aggressively not only had less gunk build up in their arteries over three years, in some cases the build-up was reversed. That's a rare and important observation.

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    2. So why is it not conclusive? All subjects were American Indians, who appear to have genetic traits that lead to diabetes. So their condition may differ from that of non-Indians. Also the study wasn't long enough to see if the treatments resulted in worse outcomes, like fewer deaths, heart attacks, etc. And all treatments were with meds, which were supplied by drugmakers.


    3. Still: It's worth talking to your diabetes care team about how aggressively to control your heart disease risk factors. This is controversial in the field, with some clinicians arguing for tight control and others for more standard targets.


    This study is all about meds, which is fine and important. But do not forget how important lasting lifestyle changes--a healthy diet and regular physical activity--are not only to controlling blood sugar, but blood pressure and heart disease too.


    We've got good stuff on diet and exercise for diabetes on this site. And our diabetes community features medical experts, patient experts and a lot of people living with the condition. Feel free to join the conversation.

Published On: April 09, 2008