"It looks like diabetes may be slowly killing heart muscle in ways we had not thought of before," said lead researcher Elizabeth Selvin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health.

To reach this conclusion, researchers employed an ultra-sensitive test to identify minute levels of a protein called troponin that is released into the blood when heart cells die.

For the study, researchers measured troponin concentrations in more than 9,000 participants.

Those with diabetes were two and a half time more likely to have elevated troponin levels than those without, the study revealed.

The study appeared in the journal Circulation.

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