Parkinson’s medication may prevent teenagers with type 1 diabetes from developing heart disease, according to a new study.

People with type 1 diabetes are known to have a higher risk of developing heart disease and those diagnosed with the condition as children are at even greater risk than those who are diagnosed as adults.

As a result, researchers have been keen to explore ways to slow down the onset of vascular disease in children living with type 1 diabetes.

Now a small study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension has revealed teenagers who are given bromocriptine – which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes – had lower blood pressure and less stiff arteries after one month.

Lead study author Michal Schäfer, PhD, a researcher and fourth-year medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado, USA, said: “We know that abnormalities in the large vessels around the heart, the aorta and its primary branches, begin to develop in early childhood in people with type 1 diabetes.

“We found that bromocriptine has the potential to slow down the development of those abnormalities and decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease in this population.”

Thirty-four participants, aged from 12 to 21, who had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes for at least a year and whose HbA1c was 12 per cent or less were invited to take part in the study.

They were randomly divided into two equal groups – one group received the bromocriptine quick-release therapy and the other received a placebo once a day.

Participants took the first treatment or placebo for four weeks in the study’s first phase and then had no treatment for four weeks.

In the second phase of the study, the participants were placed on the opposite course of treatment for four weeks. As a result, each participant was their own control for comparison.

On average, by the end of the treatment bromocriptine therapy resulted in a systolic blood pressure decrease of 5 mm Hg and a diastolic blood pressure decrease of 2 mm Hg.

The bromocriptine therapy also reduced aortic stiffness.

Schäfer said: “A stiff aorta predisposes a patient to other health issues, such as organ dysfunction or atherosclerosis and higher stress or strain on cardiac muscle.

“We were able to take it a notch further and show, using more sophisticated metrics, that these central large arteries are impaired, and impairment among adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes may be decelerated with this drug.”

The researchers are now planning larger trials.

The National Institutes of Health in the US funded the study.

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