QUB scientists probe why one in four Northern Ireland heart patients also have diabetes
A quarter of people here with coronary heart disease also have diabetes, according to new figures.
The British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) says that around 74,000 local people are living with coronary heart disease and around 19,000 of them will also have diabetes.
Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart and circulatory disease and is the leading cause of heart attacks.
It occurs when coronary arteries become narrowed by a build-up of fatty material within their walls.
The pain or discomfort felt from such narrowing is called angina and if a blockage occurs it can cause a heart attack.
Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of premature death here and the single biggest killer worldwide.
Adults with diabetes are up to three times more likely to develop heart and circulatory conditions, such as coronary heart disease.
The BHF NI funds research at Queen's University into the link between heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Andriana Margariti and her team are working on a £264k research project funded by it that could lead to the development of new ways to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.
The scientists are studying how a harmful form of a molecule known as quaking may promote damage to the blood vessels in people with diabetes.
They believe that the harmful form of this molecule is higher in the cells of people with diabetes.
If Dr Margariti can find what causes levels of this "bad" form of quaking to increase, it could be used to treat the cardiovascular complications of diabetes, or to screen patients far earlier.
Dr Margariti said: "Diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are elevated over a prolonged period of time.
This results in damage to the inner lining of blood vessels. We know that people with diabetes are much more likely to develop coronary heart disease because of this damage to the blood vessels.
"It's also important to note that type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease also have some of the same risk factors, such as physical inactivity or being overweight.
"We urgently need more research to find better ways to treat and diagnose diabetes, so we can save the lives of people at risk of a potentially fatal heart attack."
Karen McCammon from BHF NI said: "There's no doubt that people vastly underestimate the danger of diabetes. The condition significantly increases the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke, and research has shown that it can also contribute to the development of dementia.
"Ultimately, all these problems are all caused by, and connected to, problems in the circulatory system that affect blood flow. Better public awareness of the risks will encourage people to get tested, take their treatments, and could ultimately save lives."
BHF NI is currently investing more than £3m in research at Queen's University across multiple research projects.
To find out more visit bhf.org.uk/research