Even slightly raised blood sugar levels can significantly increase the chances of heart attacks, a study has found.
The Danish findings indicate that blood sugar may be as important a heart disease risk factor as cholesterol.
They suggest that not only diabetics should worry about the effects of high blood sugar on their hearts.
“We know that diabetics and people with high cholesterol levels are prone to ischaemic heart disease, but our study also made it possible to look at blood glucose level in isolation,” said lead scientist Dr Marianne Benn, from Copenhagen University Hospital.
“It is surprising that even a slightly higher blood glucose value appears to be dangerous over a longer period - and that sugar alone makes a negative difference.”
The researchers analysed data from three large population-based studies. They were able to show that slightly elevated blood sugar on its own was enough to pose a risk to the heart in a group of 80,522 Danes.
The findings are published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Healthy people without diabetes have a normal fasting blood sugar level of less than 108 milligrams of glucose per litre of blood.
Raising blood sugar by just 18 milligrams above normal over many years increased the risk of having a heart attack by 69%, the study found.