Research suggests that addressing high blood pressure and cholesterol may be even more important for people with diabetes than controlling their blood sugar.
People with diabetes should do whatever they can to normalise their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, new research has shown.
It is commonly assumed that the top priority for diabetes patients is to achieve the recommended guidelines for blood sugar control.
But a new study from the Kaiser Permanent Centre for Health Research in the US indicates that meeting the guidelines for blood pressure and cholesterol is actually even more important than blood sugar control in terms of reducing these patients' risk of heart attack and stroke.
The research involved more than 26,000 people with diabetes, a disease that is associated with a two to four-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Controlling risk factors for cardiovascular disease - including blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol - is known to be important for people with diabetes, but the most important of these factors was not known until now.
The researchers found that patients who achieved guidelines for all three risk factors were least likely to be hospitalised for a heart attack or stroke, along with those who only met the blood pressure and cholesterol guidelines (and not the recommendation for blood sugar).
In contrast, patients who met none of the guidelines and those who only met their blood sugar targets were most likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Lead author Dr Greg Nichols, whose findings are published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, noted that people with diabetes tend to focus on controlling their blood sugar.
"But our study found that controlling blood pressure and cholesterol is even more important in preventing heart disease," Dr Nichols revealed.
"This doesn't mean that people with diabetes should ignore their blood sugar levels ... but it's also important to pay attention to other factors that increase the risk for cardiovascular disease," he added.
The findings are relevant to many people in the UK, with NHS figures showing that approximately 2.9 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, while a further 850,000 people are thought to have the condition without realising it.