Individuals, including non-diabetics, are 69% more likely to develop ischemic cardiovascular disease if glucose levels in their blood are slightly elevated, say researchers.

The study, which involves more than 80,000 people, was conducted by researchers at the University of Copenhagen and is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Until now, the leading threat to global heart health had been cholesterol.

Marianne Benn, chief physician at Copenhagen University Hospital and associate professor at the University of Copenhagen, explained:

“We know that diabetics and people with high cholesterol levels are prone to ischemic heart disease, but our study also made it possible to look at blood glucose level in isolation. It is surprising that even a slightly higher blood glucose value appears to be dangerous over a longer period – and that sugar alone makes a negative difference.”

Although healthy individuals without diabetes have a normal, fasting blood glucose value of less than 6 mmol/l (or 108 mg/dl) glucose, the researchers found that over several years, just a slight increase (1 mmol/l or 18mg/dl) in blood glucose increases the risk of heart attack by 69%.

The researchers examined data from The Copenhagen General Population Study, The Copenhagen City Heart Study, and The Copenhagen Ischemic Heart Disease Study, which together involved 80,522 Danes.

They found that a slightly elevated level of blood sugar is enough on its own to cause cardiovascular damage.

However, these studies are not enough to document an association between cardiovascular disease and higher blood glucose levels. According to the researchers, participants of these studies may share physical problems or characteristics that influence their weight and heart. However, in the present studies the genetic analyses used strip distracting elements from the analyses from the three large studies. With sugar getting the full focus.

Although researchers believe that the risk of ischemic cardiovascular disease is directly affected by glucose, they do not know why. They state that in order to benefit health globally, sugar intake should be limited.

Borge Nordestgaard, chief physician at Copenhagen University Hospital and clinical professor at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, said:

“The World Health Organization estimates that 6 per cent of all deaths are due to elevated blood glucose. Therefore, our results may potentially have great importance for the design of programs to prevent heart disease and early death worldwide.”

According to the World Health Organization, 17 million individuals die from heart-related disease each year and this figure is expected to increase in the coming years.

Written By Grace Rattue