Purpose of review: Diabetes mellitus is an established risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This review examines glycated hemoglobin, an indicator of long-term average blood glucose concentrations, in risk prediction for cardiovascular disease.
Recent findings: Glycated hemoglobin concentrations predict cardiovascular disease risk in people with diabetes, and trial data suggest that good blood glucose control is associated with reduction in cardiovascular disease. Elevated glycated hemoglobin levels below the thresholds accepted for diabetes are also associated with increasing cardiovascular disease risk independent of classical risk factors in a continuous relationship across the whole normal distribution. A 1% increase in absolute concentrations of glycated hemoglobin is associated with about 10-20% increase in cardiovascular disease risk. The continuous relationship is most evident for coronary heart disease in men; the shape of the risk curve is less clear for women and for other cardiovascular endpoints such as stroke or peripheral vascular disease.
Summary: Glycated hemoglobin concentration predicts cardiovascular risk both in people with diabetes and in the general population, and may help identify individuals at higher risk of cardiovascular disease for targeted interventions, including blood pressure or cholesterol reduction. Understanding the nature of this relationship may inform new preventive and therapeutic interventions.