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Jan 22, 2019

A New Tool Helps Predict Heart-Health Benefits from Diabetes Treatment

Risk prediction tool could aid patients in treatment decisions for type 2 diabetes.

A simple new tool helps show the potential lifesaving benefits of diabetes treatment, based on a recent study that tested a model for predicting heart risks in patients with type 2 diabetes. The findings were recently published in the European Heart Journal and could be especially useful motivation for patients with long-term treatment plans.

Known as the DIAL (diabetes lifetime-perspective prediction) model, this tool was developed to predict future risk for heart events in patients with type 2 diabetes. Experts hoped that, if successful, the tool could predict how changes in health or treatment could impact risk for life-threatening heart events. Predictions could also aid in treatment decisions and provide motivation to adhere to treatment plans for type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, affecting nearly 28 million adults in the United States. It occurs when the body does not process blood sugar properly and can nearly double an individual’s risk of developing heart disease.

To create the prediction model, researchers analyzed data from the Swedish National Diabetes Registry, which included nearly 390,000 patients with type 2 diabetes. Researchers looked closely at key risk factors such as age, sex, weight, blood pressure and blood sugar and their impact on survival and outcomes. This information was then used to predict how changes in things like medication and treatment could affect future risk for heart events.

Ultimately, researchers were successful in developing the model, and when comparing it to other large data sources, found it to be largely accurate. In the study, researchers used the tool to predict things like ten-year and lifetime risk for heart events among patients in other registries and studies. The tool performed very well, according to authors, which is promising.

As a result, the tool is now available for free online at It is simple to use and available to both patients and providers.

To use the tool, it first asks to input current data, such as age, blood sugar, cholesterol and diabetes medications. The tool then generates three charts based on this information. One chart includes how many years a patient is estimated to live free of heart disease, one estimates a patient’s ten-year risk for developing heart disease, and another estimates a patient’s lifetime risk for developing heart disease. You can then adjust factors like blood pressure levels or use of statins and blood thinners to see how the changes might impact outcomes.

For example, the tool may show that a patient’s risk for developing heart disease in the next ten years is 50% based on their existing health and treatment plan. However, adding additional medications may reduce that risk by 10% and increase years lived free of heart disease.

Of course, researchers note that the tool should not be used in place of meeting with your actual doctor. However, the tool may be useful when considering different treatments by quantifying the potential benefits from medications or lifestyle changes related to type 2 diabetes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can I prevent type 2 diabetes?

  • Although unknown exactly why some individuals develop type 2 diabetes and some don’t, there are some known risk factors for this condition, like being overweight and inactive. There are also risk factors that can’t be controlled, such as family history, age and race.
  • What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

  • Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce any insulin—a hormone that converts sugar into energy. This type of diabetes is often diagnosed in children and young adults and cannot be prevented. Type 2 diabetes, however, occurs when the body resists insulin or does not produce enough insulin, and can be prevented in some patients.

Infographic: Diabetes and Heart Disease Risk


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