Cold Water Indicates Heart Risks

Published Online: Thursday, April 1, 2004

Researchers have found a new method to detect heart problems in diabetic patients.The "cold pressor" test, which involves immersing the hands in ice water for 2 minutes, can alert physicians if a patient with type 2 diabetes is likely to experience heart problems, even when there are no other risk factors present. The cold water causes the coronary arteries to expand in healthy people, whereas in diabetics it constricts coronary arteries.

For the study, the researchers examined 128 patients (72 patients with diabetes but without other major coronary risk factors and 56 control participants). The results, published in Diabetes Care (January 2004), showed that the average change in the diameter of the coronary arteries was an increase of 17.2% in the control group, compared with a 14.4% decrease in the diabetic group. Also, no changes were seen in 8.9% of the controls, and none showed constriction. No changes were witnessed in 26.4% of diabetics, and none showed dilation.

After 45 months, the researchers noted 26 cardiovascular incidents (ie, heart attack, stroke, or severe angina) in 18 diabetic participants, compared with 1 cardiovascular episode in the control group. Additionally, 23 of the events in diabetic patients happened in 16 of the 53 who demonstrated coronary-artery constriction. The remaining 3 occurrences were in 2 of the 19 diabetic patients who showed no diameter change.

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