Blood sugar, high blood pressure and cholesterol control still important for diabetics.

The secondary findings of the ACCORD trial reported out today, and already the media is buzzing. Though the news was disappointing, the results are not nearly as bad as some of the media headlines are making it out to be. ABC News is reporting: ACCORD Study: Cholesterol, BP Control Does Little Good for Diabetics and MSNBC states that Intense treatment hopes for diabetics dashed. If I were a diabetic, I might think that controlling blood pressure and cholesterol was not important. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The same thing happened when the media first reported that the ACCORD study was stopped.
( See ACCORD and ADVANCE: Good News for Type 2 diabetes…really). This first part of the study was looking at whether or not intense lowering of blood sugar to normal (A1c less than 6%) prevented heart attacks and strokes more than the current standard of care (A1c less than 7%) which had not proven to reduce heart attacks or strokes. The study was stopped early because there were more heart attacks and deaths in the intense group. However, though the media headlines similarly questioned the role of blood sugar control back then, the good news was that the rate of heart attacks and strokes were much lower than expected. In other words, good sugar control in diabetics is likely important in preventing cardiovascular disease; however, intensely lowering blood sugar is probably not a good idea.

What was reported today at the American College of Cardiology meeting was the blood pressure and cholesterol arms of the study. The blood pressure arm similarly looked at getting the blood pressure to normal (120/80) compared to standard care. Again, both groups had fewer heart attacks and strokes than expected. Thus, blood pressure control is important, just not continuing to add medicines until the BP is normal. The cholesterol arm of the study looked at something different. All the patients were given statins, but half were randomized to fenofibrate, a different kind of cholesterol medicine that doesn’t affect bad cholesterol too much (LDL), but does raise good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers fats (triglycerides). Unfortunately, there was no difference in heart attacks or strokes in either group. However, when you looked at diabetics with low HDL and high triglycerides, there was an improvement. In other words, unlike statins which should be given to every diabetic, fibrates should be used only in diabetics with low HDL and high triglycerides. Again, this reinforces the importance of cholesterol lowering in diabetics, despite what the headlines may read.

Bottom Line: If you are a diabetic, try and keep your A1c under 7%, and don’t take any more medicines (especially insulin) to try to get the A1c any lower. Blood pressure and cholesterol control are also very important. Diabetics should keep the blood pressure under 130/80, but don’t need to keep adding medications to get it perfect (under 120/80). All diabetics should take a statin medications (regardless of LDL number), and if your triglycerides are above 200 and HDL is below 35, add a fibrate to the statin.

About the Author