Conference Coverage

Half of young adults with diabetes have diastolic dysfunction



Roughly half of adolescents and young adults with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes for about a decade had diastolic dysfunction, a direct precursor to heart failure, in a multicenter echocardiography survey of 479 American patients.

Dr. Amy S. Shah, director, Adolescent Type 2 Diabetes Program, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Courtesy Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Dr. Amy S. Shah

Using tissue Doppler echocardiography findings from 258 adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes, and 221 with type 2 diabetes, the study found at least one imaging marker of ventricular stiffness – diastolic dysfunction – in 58% of the patients with type 2 diabetes and in 47% of those with type 1 diabetes. The type 1 patients averaged 21 years of age with a median 12 years of diagnosed disease, while the type 2 patients had an average age of 25 years and a median 11 years disease duration.

The analysis also identified several measures that significantly linked with the presence of diastolic dysfunction: older age, female sex, nonwhite race, type 2 diabetes, higher heart rate, higher body mass index, higher systolic blood pressure, and higher hemoglobin A1c.

“Our data suggest targeting modifiable risk factors” in these patients in an effort to slow the process causing the diastolic dysfunction, Amy S. Shah, MD, said at the virtual annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association. She particularly cited interventions aimed at reducing body mass index, lowering blood pressure, and improving glycemic control, as well as preventing type 2 diabetes in the first place.

Prevention of type 2 diabetes, as well as prevention of diastolic dysfunction development and progression, are key steps because of the substantial clinical consequences of diastolic dysfunction, triggered by stiffening of the left ventricle. Diastolic dysfunction leads to increased left ventricular diastolic pressure, left atrial dysfunction, and ultimately heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, a common diabetes complication that currently has no treatment with proven efficacy, said Dr. Shah, a pediatric endocrinologist and director of the Adolescent Type 2 Diabetes Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Robert A. Gabbay, MD, PhD, FACP, chief medical officer at Joslin Diabetes Center and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in Boston

Dr. Robert A. Gabbay

“It’s very concerning that diastolic dysfunction is so prevalent in this age group,” commented Robert A. Gabbay, MD, Chief Science & Medical Officer of the American Diabetes Association. “An important question is whether you can see an improvement by reversing risk factors.” He noted the importance of confirming the finding in additional cohorts as well as running prospective studies looking at the impact of risk factor modification.

Dr. Shah and her associates used data collected at four U.S. centers from patients enrolled in the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study who underwent a tissue Doppler examination during 2016-2019, and used three measures derived from the scans to identify diastolic dysfunction:

  • The E/A ratio, which compares the early flow wave across the mitral valve (E) with the atrial flow wave (A) that occurs after atrial contraction. Lower values reflect worse pathology.
  • The E/e’ ratio, which compares the early flow wave across the mitral valve (E) with the rate of cardiac wall relaxation in early diastole (e’). Higher values reflect worse pathology.
  • The e’/a’ ratio, which compares the rate of cardiac wall relaxation in early diastole (e’) with the rate of cardiac wall relaxation in late diastole (a’). Lower values reflect worse pathology.


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