The elephant in the room: Why cardiologists should stop ignoring type 2 diabetes

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2019 Jul-Aug;62(4):364-369. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2019.08.001. Epub 2019 Aug 10.


Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) is a growing public health threat that is evolving into a global pandemic with debilitating, expensive and often lethal complications. Even when hemoglobin A1c (HbA1C) levels are well controlled, and concomitant cardiovascular (CV) risk factors are effectively treated, two out of every three patients with T2D are destined to die from CV complications. Several large randomized controlled trials (RCT) indicate that two classes of glucose-lowering medications, oral sodium-glucose cotransporter type 2 inhibitors (SGLT2-i) and injectable glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1RA), confer significant CV benefits, including reductions in: hospitalizations for heart failure (HF), progression of diabetic kidney disease, atherosclerotic CV events, and (with some agents) CV death. These CV benefits appear to be independent of the glucose-lowering effects of these agents. These compelling findings are triggering a fundamental paradigm shift in T2D management whereby the focus is no longer on HbA1c alone, but instead on implementing a comprehensive CV risk reduction strategy prioritizing the use of these evidence-based therapies (along with other evidence-based treatment strategies) with the objective of reducing the risk of morbid complications, and improving the quantity and quality of life of patients with T2D. Cardiologists are uniquely positioned to become more involved in the management of T2D and established CV disease, which at this time should include initiation (either by prescribing or by making recommendations) of agents proven to reduce CV risk. Specifically, SGLT2-is and/or GLP-1RA have now been shown to have a favorable risk-benefit balance, and are being increasingly emphasized by the practice guidelines as preferable treatment options in vulnerable patients with T2D. The cardiology community should collaborate with other care providers to ensure that when and where appropriate these new T2D therapies are used along with other evidence-based therapies to improve patient outcomes.

Keywords: Cardiovascular; GLP-1RA; Heart failure; SGLT2-i; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Cardiologists
  • Cardiotonic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / administration & dosage
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Safety
  • Prognosis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Cardiotonic Agents
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1