Jan. 2 (UPI) -- As if diabetes didn't present enough health complications on its own, researchers at the Mayo Clinic now believe those with the disease are at increased risk for heart failure.
In findings published Thursday in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers identified diabetes as an independent risk factor for the development of heart failure.
In the population study, the risk for heart failure was nearly twice as high in people with the disease compared with healthy controls.
"Diabetes mellitus alone is an independent risk factor for the development of heart failure," study senior author Horng Chen, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said in a press release. "There is still much to learn and study in terms of this association and how to best diagnose and treat this condition."
In general, it has long been known that heart problems are a common development for people with diabetes. In fact, about one-third of all Americans admitted to the hospital for heart failure also have diabetes.
It has been suggested that heart failure among those with diabetes may be the result of a "co-condition" like hypertension or coronary heart disease. However, this is not always the case.
Using the Rochester Epidemiology Project, Chen and his colleagues evaluated the long-term impact of diabetes on the development of heart failure, both with preserved ejection fraction -- which measures the percentage of blood leaving the heart with each contraction -- and reduced ejection fraction. They also looked at risk for death, controlling for hypertension, coronary artery disease and diastolic function.
From an initial group of 2,042 residents of Olmsted County, Minnesota, they selected 116 study participants with diabetes and 232 healthy controls matched for age, hypertension, sex, coronary artery disease and diastolic dysfunction. Over the 10-year follow-up period, the 21 percent of those with diabetes who developed heart failure did so independent of other causes.
In comparison, just 12 percent of those in the study population who did not have diabetes developed heart failure. The authors found no differences in cardiac death, heart attack and stroke between the two groups.
Chen and his team believe their findings support the concept of a diabetic cardiomyopathy. Their research demonstrates that even without a known cardiac structural abnormality and with a normal ejection fraction, diabetic patients are still at increased risk of developing heart failure.
"Our hope is that this study provides a strong foundation for further investigations into diabetes and heart failure," Chen noted.