Warren Baffsky was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 37. In his 50s, he suffered a heart attack. Surviving the heart attack however, revealed he had a much greater underlying health issue.
Warren was diagnosed with a form of heart disease that often results in heart failure. The harsh reality is that now, this heart disease will likely kill him. Tragically, Warren’s story is not unique.
While scientists yearn to understand more about how and why diabetes and heart disease are so closely related; it is known that an increasing number of people with diabetes are developing the ‘stiff heart’ condition of heart failure; or Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction (HFpEF).
Currently, there is no cure, or effective treatment for HFpEF, and, once diagnosed with the condition, many people will only have only 5 years to live. In severe cases of heart failure, 50% of patients will die within one year.
It is known that diabetes damages blood vessels within the body over many years. Damaged blood vessels stop blood from travelling through the body effectively. Ineffective blood flow leads to reduced heart ‘pump’ function, and causes the heart muscle to thicken, or enlarge. Typically, this results in heart failure and premature death.
To protect the hearts of Australians living with diabetes, and save lives; it is crucial that we do so much more than just treat blood glucose levels.
Fortunately, Associate Professor Julie McMullen, is leading new and dedicated studies into the ‘stiff heart’ condition of heart failure, as well as a major development into a treatment for it.
Your gift today will help progress a game-changing therapy for people suffering HFpEF (‘stiff heart’ heart failure).
Living with type 2 diabetes and heart disease, Warren is also a heart attack survivor. He was driving to work one morning when his diabetic heart complications all began.
“I had an unusual heaviness across my chest — it felt like indigestion. I remember thinking I’ll have a coffee to wash it down when I get to work. After things hadn’t improved, I decided to drive myself to hospital.
“When I presented in emergency, the doctor asked me to describe the pain on a scale of one to ten. It honestly felt like a three.”
“After running some tests, the doctor told me: “Right now, your dull pain of three; probably translates to a feeling of seven or eight in a non-diabetic patient. Often, people with diabetes develop nerve damage, and this reduces their feeling of pain. You’re lucky to have made it to hospital.”
The feeling of indigestion that Warren experienced on that one morning, turned out to be a heart attack that required four days of hospitalisation, and having a stent installed. It also resulted in diagnosis of heart disease.
“Until I personally became involved as a patient with the Baker Institute, I never realised that diabetes and heart disease were so related. I thought they were two totally different things.”
Australians with type 2 diabetes are much more likely to die from heart disease, and at a younger age, than those without the condition. Your donation will give researchers a greater opportunity to unravel the mysteries surrounding the dark heart of diabetes.
The facts: type 2 diabetes and heart disease
- Heart disease is the number one cause of death.
- Heart disease kills 1 in 3 people.
- Life expectancy cut short by close to a decade.
- Around 50% of people will die 5 years after receiving a heart failure diagnosis.
- 1.5 million Australians currently live with diabetes and on average, one person is newly diagnosed every 5 minutes.
- Without significant medical breakthroughs, it is expected that diabetes will affect 3 million Australians by 2025; with one third of today’s young adults developing diabetes in their lifetime.
While diabetes and diabetes-related heart disease may not directly affect you today, it has a strong likelihood of affecting you, or someone you know in the future. Please, can you make a kind gift today to help progress promising research?
Game-changing therapy to save a failing heart
Dr Kate Weeks, Associate Professor Julie McMullen, Dr Bianca Bernardo and PhD student Mr Sebastian Bass-Stringer are making pioneering advances.
Regardless of its type, or its relationship to diabetes, heart failure is one of the most excruciating and life-limiting forms of heart disease that anyone should have to endure.
It is an awfully painful condition that can diminish quality of life dramatically. The most basic and daily of tasks can become challenging, and be hampered by shortness of breath, fatigue, a persistent cough, weight gain, chest pain, swollen legs — all resulting in frequent trips to hospital.
In the ‘stiff heart’ condition of heart failure, effectively, the heart, or ‘pump’ fails to draw in enough blood after each squeeze.
“The heart enlarges in people who exercise a lot and this heart growth is ‘good’.” Associate Professor Julie McMullen explained. “The heart also enlarges in people with heart disease or heart failure, but this heart growth is ‘bad’.”
Traditionally, research for the ‘stiff heart’ condition of heart failure has focussed on the ‘bad’ genes that inhibit heart function, where Julie has identified a ‘good’ gene that is triggered during exercise.
By using a ‘good’ virus, Julie and her team have uncovered a way to deliver the ‘good’ gene, as a therapeutic, straight to the heart. Her team are now ready to test this therapy in early phase studies.
It is hoped that the ‘good’ genes will promote ‘good’ heart growth in heart failure.
Julie’s therapy gives hope for improved heart function, less hospital visits, and increased quality of life for people with the ‘stiff heart’ condition of heart failure.
How your generous gift will help
Your gift will enable Julie with the critical resources required to progress her treatment for heart failure today. Importantly, your gift will help transform treatment options for patients living with heart failure, as well as give the 1.5 million Australians with type 2 diabetes hope for a more heart healthy future.