Both primary care physicians and patients with type 2 diabetes underestimate the link between cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes, according to the results of an on-line questionnaire.

The data showed that while 99% of physicians surveyed agreed that heart disease and stroke are the number one cause of disability and death in type 2 diabetics and that diabetes is a CVD disease equivalent, 52% underestimate the percentage of patients who die from CVD.

The survey included 200 U.S.-based primary care physicians who were randomly sampled from the American Medical Association Masterfile and were targeted by specialty code and 664 U.S. adults 40 years of age or older who self-reported a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

The findings revealed that while type 2 diabetics are two to four times more likely to have heart disease than individuals without diabetes, only 21% of patients cited heart attack or heart failure as the complication they feared most. Nearly half (47%) of physicians believed that the potential for amputation was the patient’s primary concern.

The survey also documented a low rate of cholesterol-lowering medication use in diabetic patients. In fact, while 75% of patients had been prescribed an anti-hypercholesterolemic medication, 34% reported that they were not taking a cholesterol-lowering medication. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists have recommended that cholesterol-lowering medications supplement lifestyle modifications in appropriate type 2 patients.

Physicians who participated in the survey were asked what they consider to be the barriers that make patients noncompliant with their anti-cholesterol treatment. Seventy- two percent said that a desire to save money may be a barrier, 72% mentioned concern about taking too many pills as a possible barrier, and 70% said a lack of understanding of the importance of treating high cholesterol levels as a potential barrier.

“For me as a physician, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease is a top priority when treating my patients with type 2 diabetes,” George Grunberger, MD, chairman of the Grunberger Diabetes Institute in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, said. “More communication between patients and physicians about the cardiovascular risks associated with diabetes is essential so that physicians can develop an individualized plan that is right for their patients.”

The Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes Patients survey was conducted by Harris Interactive and supported by Merck.

Written by Jill Stein
Jill Stein is a Paris-based freelance medical writer.