Diabetic children have 7 times greater risk of cardiac death than peers

Children with diabetes are seven times more likely to experience sudden cardiac death than their non-diabetic peers, according to research reported by the American Heart Association this week.

Copenhagen University Hospital graduate research student Jesper Svane and colleagues worked on the Danish study, which found that children with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes were at an increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest—an often fatal event.

Svane said in an AHA release the information his team gathered could be more helpful for clinicians than for parents or the children themselves.

“I think parents are probably already aware of their children’s symptoms and pains, so this message is more for doctors, about more cardiac monitoring,” he said.

Svane said children and young adults who experience sudden cardiac death often show symptoms before the event, including fainting and chest pains. It can be hard to identify these symptoms in youthful patients, he said, since the younger demographic tends to be statistically healthier than older diabetes patients.

Svane and colleagues drew from Danish health, pharmacy and death registries for information about all Danish citizens between 1 and 35 years old between 2000 and 2009, as well as those aged 36 to 49 between 2007 and 2009.

According to the release, 5 percent of the 14,294 Danes who died during that period were diabetic. Type 1 diabetes dominated that diabetic population at 70 percent.

Though it was less common in Denmark, U.S. populations see high rates of type 2 diabetes due to a culture of obesity and ever-increasing heart disease. Svane said it’s important to highlight the added cardiac risks of diabetes in any case, not just in patients whose diabetes isn’t genetic.

“When you have a young person with diabetes you should be aware that this person has a higher risk of heart disease even though they are young, even with type 1 diabetes,” he said.