Sept. 1, 2024

Addressing links between diabetes and cardiovascular care

Institute tackles diabetes

Diabetes is a serious condition that is linked to high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries, heart disease and stroke. According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, people with diabetes are three times more likely to die of heart disease. Diabetes is on the rise in Alberta. In fact, a population-based study, published in the Lancet – Public Health, revealed that almost 25 per cent of Albertans ages 40 and older have prediabetes or diabetes. 

The Libin Cardiovascular Institute is a nationally significant research hub investigating the links between diabetes and cardiovascular health.  Libin researchers are tackling a wide range of problems related to diabetes, from investigating why the common arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, occurs in many with diabetes, to easing the transition from pediatric to adult care for individuals with Type 1 diabetes. Continue reading to learn more about the Libin Institute’s work in diabetes and cardiovascular care. 

Easing the transition from childhood to adult care for patients with Type 1 diabetes

Imagine the stress and overwhelming responsibilities that come with managing diabetes while transitioning from a being teenager to an adult. Navigating a new care team, finding resources and making appointments can be exhausting and isolating, especially during a time when other major life changes are happening. Because of this, many patients making this transition have historically fallen through the cracks, risking their short- and long-term health. 

Libin Institute member Dr. Sonia Butalia, MD, a recipient of the prestigious CIHR/Diabetes Canada Young Investigator Award, has worked tirelessly for a decade on the problem. She co-developed a program to bridge the gap and improve continuity of care for youth with diabetes. Teens who are involved are assigned a dedicated transition coordinator who connects with them through digital technologies such as email and text messages. There is also a private Facebook page and website to provide information and an online community. 

A pilot study of the program was incredibly successful, increasing clinic attendance four-fold. The program is now being implemented across Alberta. Learn more about the program here

Addressing the intersection of diabetes and homelessness

Diabetes rates may be twice as high in individuals experiencing homelessness as in those who have a home, with some studies suggesting that one in five people experiencing homelessness also have diabetes. Homelessness also makes managing diabetes more difficult. 

Clinician-researcher Dr. David Campbell, MD, PhD, is passionate about helping this community. He developed a screening program that is available weekly at the Drop-In Centre and the Mustard Seed in Calgary. His goal is to prevent potential complications in this population by making it simpler for individuals to access health care services. 

Campbell also leads a research project that is working to increase awareness about the link between diabetes and homelessness and to erase the stigma they face.  His team recently completed a moving film project that documents the experiences of an individual experiencing diabetes and homelessness. The professionally produced film, LOW, is based on the experience of Campbell’s co-researchers, who have lived experience with diabetes and homelessness. 

Philanthropy in diabetes research 

The Cal Wenzel [LP2] Family Foundational has given more than $20 million to fund initiatives at the Cumming School of Medicine, including Dr. Campbell’s work at the intersection of homelessness and diabetes. The foundation’s gift to fund CSM’s International Microbiome Centre research on the gut microbiome and diabetes helped researchers identify three specific bacterial species that may protect against Type 1 diabetes development, and supports a research project demonstrating that a prebiotic fibre can help children with Type 1 diabetes improve their gut microbiome — with important future implications for diabetes management. Learn more about this generous foundation here.