"People with diabetes are recognized as having an increased risk of heart failure," Bertoni said. "We sought to better understand why.
We were especially interested in the role atherosclerosis may play."
In a report in the March issue of Diabetes Care, the researchers compared people with diabetes or impaired fasting glucose (which means their blood sugar levels were too high) with those who had normal blood sugar levels.
The investigators particularly looked at the muscle mass of the left ventricle, the part of the heart that pumps the blood through the aorta and out into the circulatory system. They measured the left ventricle itself, not the blood in it.
They also measured the volume of the ventricle when filled with blood just before it pumps the blood out. A lower volume indicates less blood is able to enter the ventricle, and suggests increased heart stiffness, said Bertoni.
"Increased left ventricular muscle mass suggests the future possibility of developing heart failure," he said. "We also think that if you have a stiffer heart, that could be an early indication that you have a propensity for developing heart failure."
MESA measured "subclinical" atherosclerosis atherosclerosis that has yet to produce symptoms through CT scans measuring the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries and ultrasound measuring the wall thickness of the carotid artery in the neck. Both are indications of atherosclerosis.