From the Journals

Troponin to ID diabetes patients with silent heart disease?



Nearly one in five U.S. adults with type 2 diabetes but without symptoms of cardiovascular disease (CVD) have a clinically meaningful elevation of a marker of cardiac damage – namely, high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T (hs-cTnT) – based on data from a representative sample of more than 10,000 U.S. adults.

The finding suggests hs-cTnT maybe a useful marker for adults with diabetes who could benefit from more aggressive CVD risk reduction despite having no clinical indications of CVD.

The results “highlight the substantial burden of subclinical CVD in persons with diabetes and emphasize the importance of early detection and treatment of CVD for this high-risk population,” say the authors of the research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Dr. Elizabeth Selvin, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Elizabeth Selvin

“This is the first study to examine subclinical CVD, defined by elevated cardiac biomarkers, in a nationally representative population of adults with or without diabetes. It provides novel information on the high burden of subclinical CVD [in American adults with diabetes] and the potential utility of hs-cTnT for monitoring this risk in people with diabetes,” said Elizabeth Selvin, PhD, senior author and a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore.

“What we are seeing is that many people with type 2 diabetes who have not had a heart attack or a history of cardiovascular disease are at high risk for cardiovascular complications,” added Dr. Selvin in an AHA press release. “When we look at the whole population of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, about 27 million adults in the U.S., according to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], some are at low risk and some are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, so the open question is: ‘Who is most at risk?’ These cardiac biomarkers give us a window into cardiovascular risk in people who otherwise might not be recognized as highest risk.”

“Our results provide evidence to support use of cardiac biomarkers for routine risk monitoring in high-risk populations such as people with diabetes,” Dr. Selvin noted in an interview.

Need for aggressive CVD risk reduction

The findings also indicate that people with diabetes and an elevated hs-cTnT “should be targeted for aggressive cardiovascular risk reduction, including lifestyle interventions, weight loss, and treatment with statins, blood pressure medications, and cardioprotective therapies such as sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitors and glucagonlike peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists,” Dr. Selvin added.

“Cholesterol is often the factor that we target to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in people with type 2 diabetes,” she observed. “However, type 2 diabetes may have a direct effect on the heart not related to cholesterol levels. If type 2 diabetes is directly causing damage to the small vessels in the heart unrelated to cholesterol plaque buildup, then cholesterol-lowering medications are not going to prevent cardiac damage,” Dr. Selvin explained. “Our research suggests that additional non–statin-related therapies are needed to lower the cardiovascular disease risk in people with type 2 diabetes.”

However, she noted that a necessary step prior to formally recommending such a strategy is to run clinical trials to assess the efficacy of specific treatments, such as SGLT-2 inhibitors and GLP-1 agonists, in people with diabetes and elevated hs-cTnT.

Dr. Robert H. Eckel, endocrinologist, University of Colorado, Aurora

Dr. Robert H. Eckel

“Randomized controlled trials would be best to test the relevance of measuring these biomarkers to assess risk in asymptomatic people with diabetes,” as well as prospective study of the value of hs-cTnT to guide treatment, commented Robert H. Eckel, MD, an endocrinologist affiliated with the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora.

“I doubt measurements [of hs-cTnT] would be reimbursed [by third-party payers] if carried out without such outcome data,” he added.

Dr. Eckel also highlights the need to further validate in additional cohorts the link between elevations in hs-cTnT and CVD events in adults with diabetes, and to confirm that elevated levels of another cardiac biomarker – N-terminal of the prohormone brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP) – do not work as well as troponin as a risk marker for people with diabetes, another finding of the study.


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