Insulin Pumps May Reduce Risk of Death from Heart Disease
Insulin pumps have long been used by people with type 1 diabetes to control their blood sugar. According to a recent Reuters Health article, a new Scandinavian study now suggests that diabetics who use insulin pumps may be reducing their risk of dying from heart disease as well.
Insulin pumps deliver insulin to the body over a 24-hour period, either in consistent doses or with increased doses at certain periods such as mealtimes. Previous studies have shown this method (which more closely mimics the way the body releases insulin) to be more effective at controlling blood sugar than the multiple daily injection alternative. This is important considering that past research has also shown that diabetics carry a risk of death from cardiovascular disease at a rate of almost double that of the general population – even when their blood sugar is well-controlled. When it is not well-controlled, that risk increases significantly.
The recent study followed over 18,000 type 1 diabetics in Sweden and analyzed rates of death from multiple causes. Researchers found a significantly lower rate of death from heart-related causes among diabetics who used insulin pumps, than among those who used multiple daily injections to control blood sugar. From the article:
For the new analysis, [Dr. Isabelle Steineck from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark] and her team looked at 18,168 patients with type 1 diabetes in the Swedish National Diabetes Register. Of these, 15,727 controlled their diabetes with multiple daily injections of insulin, while the other 2,441 patients used implanted insulin pumps. The group was followed for almost seven years, until December 2012.
The study team analyzed the rates of fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease or stroke) and death from all causes.
Using an insulin pump was associated with a 45 percent reduction in risk of fatal coronary heart disease compared to using injected insulin, a 42 percent risk reduction for fatal cardiovascular disease and a 27 percent lower risk of dying from any cause.
There were some differences between the two groups, the researchers note. Patients who used insulin pumps tended to be somewhat younger, had lower blood pressure and less heart disease, were more active, smoked less and were better educated.
But when the authors did a second analysis that only included the 16,427 patients without any history of cardiovascular disease, heart failure or a type of abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, the results were similar to those of the whole group.
Steineck and her team point out, however, that they don’t know what other factors could have influenced their results. For example, better education and more frequent monitoring of blood sugar among insulin pump users could have helped lower their risk of heart disease.
“We evaluated the patients who used insulin pump therapy and do not know if the observed effect is attributable to continuous infusion of insulin or that some, if not all, of the effect is attributable to intensified glucose monitoring, increased motivation to control blood glucose, or a better knowledge about having diabetes type 1,” they write.
Patients with diabetes should discuss available treatment options with their doctor before choosing to use an insulin pump to control blood sugar. For questions about insulin pumps and other insulin medications, please visit any Owens Healthcare Location and speak with one of our pharmacists.