Asymptomatic Diabetic Cardiomyopathy: an Underrecognized Entity in Type 2 Diabetes

Curr Diab Rep. 2021 Sep 27;21(10):41. doi: 10.1007/s11892-021-01407-2.


Purpose of review: Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is associated with an increased risk of heart failure (HF), with diabetic cardiomyopathy (DbCM) referring to abnormal heart structure in the absence of other driving cardiac factors such as hypertension, coronary artery disease (CAD), and valvular heart disease. Stage B DbCM is commonly asymptomatic and represents a form of stage B HF; DbCM thus represents a transitional phenotype prior to onset of symptomatic HF. The pathogenesis of DbCM is not fully elucidated but involves hyperglycemia, insulin resistance, increased free fatty acids (FFA), lipotoxicity, oxidative stress, advanced glycation end product (AGE) formation, activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) with an increase in angiotensin II, and dyshomeostasis of calcium, which all contribute to left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH) and cardiac systolic and diastolic dysfunction. Although DbCM is an established pathogenic process, it is underrecognized clinically due to its commonly asymptomatic nature. Raising awareness to identify high-risk individuals with stage B HF due to DbCM, who may subsequently progress to overt HF (stage C/D HF), as well as identifying new pharmacological agents and approaches to prevent functional decline, may help reduce this global health problem. The aim of this review is to focus on stage B DbCM; provide data on diagnostic approaches, current therapies, and potential therapies under investigation; and highlight the need to raise awareness and interdisciplinary dialogue among clinicians and researchers.

Recent findings: There are no currently approved therapeutic strategies to treat or prevent progression of stage B DbCM, but multiple attempts are being made to target different pathogenic mechanisms involved in the development of DbCM. Recent cardiovascular (CV) outcome trials (CVOTs) have identified newer therapeutic agents with CV benefit, such as sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT-2) inhibitors that reduce hospitalization for HF and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists that reduce major adverse CV events (MACE), though without consistent effect on HF outcomes. Recent clinical practice guidelines recommend screening patients at high risk for HF. Further definition and interdisciplinary discussion of high-yield populations to screen, appropriate subsequent evaluation and intervention are needed to advance this area. DbCM is a complex entity that results from multiple pathogenic mechanisms triggered by impairment of glucose and lipid metabolism over many years. DbCM is commonly asymptomatic and represents a form of stage B HF. It is an underrecognized process that may progress to functional decline and overt HF. Although newer medications approved for the treatment of T2D may play an important role in reducing the risk of HF complications, less focus has been placed on earlier recognition and treatment of DbCM while asymptomatic. Additional efforts should be made to further study and target this stage in order to decrease the overall burden of HF.

Keywords: Asymptomatic heart disease; Diabetes mellitus; Diabetic cardiomyopathy; Heart failure.

Publication types

  • Review