Diabetes drug metformin protects heart

The common diabetes drug metformin can protect the heart and may prevent heart disease, according to a study from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes, treated laboratory rats for one year with the widely used diabetes medication.

Researchers found that metformin helps increase the pumping capacity of the heart. It also improves energy balance, reduces fat accumulation, and limits the loss of heart cells through programmed cell death.

Scientists compared these results with animals treated with another diabetes drug that proved to have no positive effects on the heart.

In the past, medications to treat diabetes have shown serious side effects for people living with heart disease. Metformin can have occasional side effects on patients with kidney failure.

Rosiglitazone, another diabetes drug, was recently withdrawn due to its cardiac side-effects.

Diabetes and heart disease
Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. People living with diabetes are at least twice as likely as someone who does not have diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In addition, people with diabetes tend to develop heart disease or have strokes at an earlier age than other people. A middle-aged person with type 2 diabetes have as high a chance of having diabetes as someone who's already had one heart attack.

Heart attacks in people with diabetes are more serious and more likely to cause death, according to the NIH. High blood glucose levels can lead to increased deposits of fatty materials on the insides of the blood vessel walls. This affects blood flow and increases the change of clogging and hardening of blood vessels.

Metabolic syndrome is a group of five traits and medical conditions that puts people at risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Having any three traits can raise a person's risk.

Traits and medical conditions include elevated waist circumference, elevated triglycerides, low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol, elevated blood pressure levels, and elevated fasting blood glucose levels.

Sources: Alpha Galileo Foundation, National Institutes of Health

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