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Diabetes Linked to Elevated Blood Viscosity

Studies Suggest Diabetics Have 10% Higher Systolic and 25% Higher Diastolic Blood Viscosity Than Healthy Subjects

Seven percent of the U.S. population, or approximately 21 million people, have diabetes, and according to the American Diabetes Association, more than 65% of those with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

In two European studies, diabetic patients were observed to have systolic and diastolic blood viscosity levels that were more than 10% and 25% higher than healthy controls, respectively (all p values < 0.01).

Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not properly produce (Type I) or utilize (Type II) insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating glucose entry into cells throughout the body. When glucose is poorly regulated, it has a negative impact on red blood cells and causes a notable increase in blood viscosity through two distinct pathways: a reduction in the deformability of the red cells and an increase in their tendency to aggregate.

Both of these pathways hinge on an imbalance in the glucose concentration across the red blood cell membrane. Reduced deformability and increased aggregation each impact blood viscosity in its own way. The decreased deformability of the red cells, for instance, causes an increase in systolic blood viscosity. On the other hand, the increase in aggregation causes an increase in diastolic blood viscosity.

Blood viscosity is the resistance of blood to flow and is strongly correlated with cardiovascular disease. Thick blood injures and inflames blood vessels and forces the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. There is a growing awareness of the relationship between blood viscosity and cardiovascular disease, but the link between elevated viscosity and diabetes is often overlooked.

More than 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications link diabetes or complications related to diabetes to high blood viscosity. Diabetes is well-known as a cardiovascular risk factor; two-thirds of all diabetics die of cardiovascular events. The fact that elevated blood viscosity is a common thread linked to both cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus underscores the importance of viscosity monitoring in preventive care.


Lowe G D O, et al., Blood Viscosity in Young Male Diabetics with and without Retinopathy, DiabetoIogia 1980; 18, 359-363.

Peduzzi M, et al., Comparative evaluation of blood viscosity in diabetic retinopathy, International Ophthalmology 1984; 7: 15-19.


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