Getting Smarter about Diabetics’ Heart Health

Written by Teddy Fine

Even though 80 percent of people with type II diabetes will develop and die of heart disease, little is known about how well these patients and their health professionals recognize or manage heart disease risk factors. In presentations at the November 2007 American Heart Association’s featured research session, a research team from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing highlighted both the need for significantly more provider and patient education to manage heart disease risk factors among this population and the urgency of further research on reducing the damage caused by the combined impact of these two serious chronic illnesses. Jerilyn Allen ScD, RN, and her colleagues Cheryl Dennison, PhD, CRNP; Allison Purcell, BS ‘07; Sarah Szanton, PhD, CRNP; Martha Hill, PhD, RN, FAAN; and Rosemarie Previte, BS explored whether diabetic patients believed themselves to be at risk for heart disease. Surprisingly, belief and reality did not match. Some with significant coronary disease risk factors thought themselves to be at low risk; others with few risk factors perceived themselves to be at greater risk. Looking at the same data from the perspective of the quality of care these patients were receiving, Cheryl Dennison, PhD, CRNP, led the team to find that management of heart disease risk factors—including diabetes itself—often was subpar. Despite the fact that these patients were in care and that most had health insurance, clustering of uncontrolled diabetes and other heart disease risk factors was common. In this ongoing study, Allen and colleagues are testing multifactorial interventions to manage heart disease risk factors in this high-risk population.

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