Signs of heart disease may be clear in type 1 diabetics at an early age

The early signs of cardiovascular disease in children with type 1 diabetes are likely to present before the onset of puberty, according to a new study from Medical College of London researchers. The findings could provide doctors with clues to help them identify patients who are most at risk for cardiovascular complications.

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in individuals with type 1 diabetes. The researchers wrote in background included with their study, which was published in the journal Diabetes Care, that these individuals are between 200 and 400 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular complications than the general public.

However, their findings suggest that an individual's risk of this disease may be present at a very early age. For the study, the researchers examined 21 individuals with type 1 diabetes who had an average age of 8.5 years. These children were compared to their healthy siblings.

The researchers took measurements of flow-mediate dilation in one of the major arteries of the upper arm. This gauge quantifies the ability of blood vessels to expand and contract. Impaired flexibility indicates stiffened arteries, which is a known risk factor for heart disease.

The results showed that the participants with type 1 diabetes had much stiffer arteries than their siblings who did not have the condition. Additionally, the researchers observed significantly higher levels of inflammation in the diabetic participants, which is another factor that contributes to heart disease.

While the researchers admitted that they couldn't say with certainty that the children with stiffened arteries and inflammation would develop heart disease later in life, they said the two conditions are well established risk factors. They said that long-term studies should be conducted to clarify the association.