Cardioprotection by Metformin: Beneficial Effects Beyond Glucose Reduction

Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2018 Jun;18(3):181-193. doi: 10.1007/s40256-018-0266-3.


Metformin is a biguanide that is widely used as an insulin-sparing agent to treat diabetes. When compared with the general population, diabetics are twice as likely to die from fatal myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure (CHF). There has been a significant concern regarding the use of metformin in patients with CHF because of their higher tendency to develop lactic acidosis. However, large epidemiological trials have reported better cardiovascular prognosis with metformin compared to other glucose-lowering agents among diabetics. Additionally, metformin has reduced the risk of reinfarction and all-cause mortality in patients with coronary artery disease and CHF, respectively. The protection against cardiovascular diseases appears to be independent of the anti-hyperglycemic effects of metformin. These effects are mediated through an increase in 5' adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) phosphorylation and by increased phosphorylation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in cardiomyocytes with an increased production of nitric oxide (NO). Metformin preconditions the heart against ischemia-reperfusion injury and may improve myocardial remodeling after an ischemic insult. The preponderance of evidence currently suggests that metformin is safe in patients with CHF, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to remove CHF as a contraindication from the package insert of all generic metformin preparations. In this narrative, along with a limited meta-analysis of available studies, we have reviewed the pleiotropic (non-glucose-lowering) effects of metformin that potentially contribute to its cardioprotective properties. Additionally, we have reviewed issues surrounding the safety of metformin in patients with cardiac diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects*
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cardiotonic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Metformin / pharmacology
  • Metformin / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Metformin