Specialist visit reduces heart disease risk in recently diagnosed type 2 diabetics

by Barbara Hewitt on June 30, 2015

People recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes who have other serious chronic health issues have less heart disease and lower death rates if they see a specialist within a year, new research has found.

Indeed, those who fall into this group who were seen by an endocrinologist had a 10% to 20% lower rate of heart attack, stroke and death from coronary heart disease, according to a study at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Services in Ontario, Canada.


Those already at risk saw a 30% reduction in the rate of serious heart complications

The researchers point out that not everyone diagnosed with diabetes needs to see a specialist and many with less complex medical histories do very well without it, but the study helps clinicians work out who needs it.

The research also found that those who were referred to a specialist because of their health risk and had at least three or more visits saw a 30% reduction in the rate of serious heart complications.

‘Endocrinologists don’t expect, or necessarily need, to see every patient. We really wanted to look at who would stand to benefit from early specialist care and should be referred as soon as possible,’ said Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist at St. Michael’s Hospital and researcher at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

The study used Ontario health data examining almost 80,000 adults aged 30 and older diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between April 1998 and March 2006.

There are no specific guidelines in Canada for referring patients with type 2 diabetes for specialist care. Often, primary care providers, that is, doctors, together with nurses and dieticians, will solely manage the care of patients with type 2 diabetes.

But type 2 diabetes can be a complicated condition to manage, involving a combination of diet, physical activity and medications to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. When a patient’s care becomes complex, endocrinologists, who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions caused by hormone imbalances, often step in.

‘The earlier we can help provide targeted care to these patients, the better. Our research will hopefully contribute to the efficiency of our health care system, ensuring people with diabetes are living healthy lives, as long as possible,’ Booth explained.

It’s estimated 360 million people worldwide live with type 2 diabetes, in which the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin, or doesn’t properly use the insulin it produces. This leads to a build-up of glucose in blood, instead of energy use.

Diabetes rates in Ontario have doubled in the last 12 years, with one in 10 adults now living with the disease; this number rises to one in four adults over the age of 65. The Canadian Diabetes Association forecasts that with the aging population and dramatic rise in obesity, one in three Canadians will live with diabetes by 2020.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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