A common diabetes medication may help patients recover from a heart attack.

A new study discovered the potential benefit of key diabetes treatment metformin in preventing heart disease, which remains the leading illness among diabetes patients, accounting for over half of all deaths in the group.

Scientists from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom and other institutions found that metformin enhanced the physiological mechanism behind new blood vessel formation, which is essential for recovery from heart attacks.

The researchers also saw that oxygen deficiency in the face of high glucose levels – as what happens during a cardiovascular attack in diabetes – delays this crucial formation of blood vessels. Metformin, a first-line treatment in type 2 diabetes that helps the body become more responsive to insulin, appeared to reverse this process.

The team used stem cells from cord blood as well as umbilical cord cells to create a heart attack-simulating model in the laboratory.

Lead study author and diabetes medicine expert Jolanta Weaver said there are poorer outcomes of heart disease intervention in diabetics than in non-diabetics.

"As a result there is a demand for improved treatment approaches to enhance the outcomes of those with diabetes in order to increase heart attack survival rates,” she says in a press release.

Not all diabetics, though, can take this drug, so the target is to push further exploration into new medications that harness metformin’s post-heart attack benefits.

Weaver added that their research is the first to demonstrate this effect of metformin in patients, and that they concentrated on the time frame during a heart attack when a new therapy can help the sufferer the most.

Recent data from the International Diabetes Federation showed that diabetes now affects 382 million around the world, with 8.3 percent of adults afflicted with the condition. The number of diabetic patients is expected to climb to 592 million by year 2035.

The findings were published in the journal Cardiovascular Diabetology.

Earlier this month, researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands identified sitting for extended periods as a culprit behind type 2 diabetes. They found that an extra hour of daily sedentary time – such as sitting for long hours – is linked to a 22 percent higher risk of developing the condition.

Apart from having more sedentary time, type 2 diabetics in the study also tended to be smokers, have limited movement, and maintain higher body mass index (BMI) than other subjects.

There are also those who are unaware of their brewing health trouble. In 2012, for instance, 8.1 million out of 29.1 million persons with diabetes were unaware that they were ill.

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