MELVILLE, N.Y. — Keeping tight control of blood sugar can halve Type 1 diabetics' risk of cardiovascular disease, one of the deadliest complications of the condition, doctors found in an analysis reported today.
"This is a rare instance of a happy ending," said Dr. Saul M. Genuth, chairman of a research project initiated in 1983. Genuth and a nationwide team of researchers studied more than 1,000 patients with Type 1 diabetes and found they gained a health-enhancing advantage when they rigorously controlled their blood-sugar levels.
The equivalent of five or six injections of insulin a day, compared with the conventional one or two injections, reduced the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%. Genuth said it did not matter whether the insulin was delivered by injection or pump: "When you bring your blood glucose as close to normal as possible, that is what counts most."
In 1993, Genuth and colleagues reported that such intensive glucose control sharply reduced the eye, kidney and nerve damage that could accompany Type 1 diabetes. Since then, doctors have been examining how rigorous control reduces heart attacks and strokes, two major causes of death in diabetics.