Record linkage used to investigate blood sugar and heart disease

Testing blood sugar level

SHIP investigator Ian Ford and colleagues at the University of Glasgow have used record linkage to investigate whether blood sugar is a risk factor for heart disease in people who don't have diabetes.

The researchers used blood sugar measurements and information collected as part of the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study (WOSCOPS).  WOSCOPS was begun in the late-1980's to find out whether taking pravastatin (a cholesterol lowering drug) could reduce the chances of getting heart disease.  Early results from WOSCOPS showed that it did.  6595 men with moderately high cholesterol and no history of heart attack were enrolled into the trial.

The team looked for a relationship between baseline measurements of blood sugar and future development of heart disease and diabetes.  They also looked at people who had diabetes or got diabetes during the study and calculated the rate of heart attacks and strokes in these people as well as death from any cause.  To do this they linked the WOSCOPS trial records with NHS records and with General Register Office death records.

The study showed that people with diabetes are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and death from any cause.  This confirms the findings of previous studies.

They also found that for people without diabetes there is no link between their blood sugar and their risk of heart disease, stroke or of dying.  This was true whether or not the subjects were taking pravastatin.  However this work made clear that having a high blood sugar is a strong risk factor for getting diabetes.