Diabetes Duration Linked to Increasing Heart Failure Risk

Mitchel L. Zoler, PhD

July 27, 2021

The longer a person has diabetes, the greater their risk for also developing heart failure, according to an analysis of nearly 10,000 U.S. adults followed for a median of close to 23 years.

In a multivariable analysis the rate of incident heart failure increased steadily and significantly as diabetes duration increased. Among the 168 study subjects (2% of the total study group) who had diabetes for at least 15 years, the subsequent incidence of heart failure was nearly threefold higher than among the 4,802 subjects (49%) who never had diabetes or prediabetes, reported Justin B. Echouffo-Tcheugui, MD, PhD, and coauthors in an article published in JACC Heart Failure.

People with prediabetes (32% of the study population) had a significant but modest increased rate of incident heart failure that was 16% higher than in control subjects who never developed diabetes. People with diabetes for durations of 0-4.9 years, 5.0-9.9 years, or 10-14.9 years, had steadily increasing relative incident heart failure rates of 29%, 97%, and 210%, respectively, compared with controls, reported Echouffo-Tcheugui, an endocrinologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

Similar Rates of HFrEF and HFpEF

Among all 1,841 people in the dataset with diabetes for any length of time each additional 5 years of the disorder linked with a significant, relative 17% increase in the rate of incident heart failure. Incidence of heart failure rose even more sharply with added duration among those with a hemoglobin A1c of 7% or greater, compared with those with better glycemic control. And the rate of incident heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (HFrEF) roughly matched the rate of incident heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

The study dataset included 9,734 adults enrolled into the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study, and during a median follow-up of 22.5 years they had nearly 2,000 episodes of either hospitalization or death secondary to incident heart failure. This included 617 (31%) events involving HFpEF, 495 events (25%) involving HFrEF, and 876 unclassified heart failure events.

The cohort averaged 63 years of age; 58% were women, 23% were Black, and 77% were White (the study design excluded people with other racial and ethnic backgrounds). The study design also excluded people with a history of heart failure or coronary artery disease, as well as those diagnosed with diabetes prior to age 18 resulting in a study group that presumably mostly had type 2 diabetes when diabetes was present. The report provided no data on the specific numbers of patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Dr Robert H. Eckel

"It's not surprising that a longer duration of diabetes is associated with heart failure, but the etiology remains problematic," commented Robert H. Eckel, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora. "The impact of diabetes on incident heart failure is not well known, particularly duration of diabetes," although disorders often found in patients with diabetes, such as hypertension and diabetic cardiomyopathy, likely have roles in causing heart failure, he said.

Diabetes Duration May Signal Need for an SGLT2 Inhibitor

"With emerging novel treatments like the SGLT2 [sodium-glucose cotransporter 2] inhibitors for preventing heart failure hospitalizations and deaths in patients with type 2 diabetes, this is a timely analysis," Eckel said in an interview.

"There is no question that with increased duration of type 2 diabetes" the need for an agent from the SGLT2-inhibitor class increases. Although, because of the proven protection these drugs give against heart failure events and progression of chronic kidney disease, treatment with this drug class should start early in patients with type 2 diabetes, he added.

Echouffo-Tcheugui and his coauthors agreed, citing two important clinical take-aways from their findings:

First, interventions that delay the onset of diabetes may potentially reduce incident heart failure; second, patients with diabetes might benefit from cardioprotective treatments such as SGLT2 inhibitors, the report said.

"Our observations suggest the potential prognostic relevance of diabetes duration in assessing heart failure," the authors wrote. Integrating diabetes duration into heart failure risk estimation in people with diabetes "could help refine the selection of high-risk individuals who may derive the greatest absolute benefit from aggressive cardioprotective therapies such as SGLT2 inhibitors."

The analysis also identified several other demographic and clinical factors that influenced the relative effect of diabetes duration. Longer duration was linked with higher rates of incident heart failure in women compared with men, in Blacks compared with Whites, in people younger than 65 compared with older people, in people with an A1c of 7% or higher, and in those with a body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or greater.

The ARIC study and the analyses run by Echouffo-Tcheugui and his coauthors received no commercial funding. Echouffo-Tcheugui and Eckel had no relevant disclosures.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.