Undiagnosed Diabetes in Heart Attack Patients

At least 1 in 10 heart attack patients may have undiagnosed diabetes.

According to one study, at least 1 in 10 heart attack patients may have undiagnosed diabetes.  Researchers tested the A1C levels (a standard test to determine blood sugar levels) of 2,854 heart attack patients who did not have a known diagnosis of diabetes and found some interesting data.

Among the patients, 287 (10.1 percent) were newly diagnosed with diabetes based on the A1C test during their treatment for heart attack.  Unfortunately, less than a third of the patients received diabetes education or medication upon discharge from the hospital.

According to American Heart Association statistics, two out three people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease.  In an unfortunate catch 21 situation, diabetes significantly raises the risk for heart attack.  Scientists say this research is important because of the role diabetes plays in heart disease.

Researchers also found that doctors failed to recognize diabetes in 198 (69 percent) of the previously undiagnosed patients.  However, they were 17 times more likely to recognize diabetes in their patients if they checked the A1C test results during the heart attack.

Six months after discharge, less than 7 percent of those who weren’t recognized as having diabetes during their hospital stay had started medication for the disease, compared to 71 percent of those whose diagnosis was recognized.  In recognizing and treating diabetes early, the hope is to possibly prevent additional cardiovascular complications through diet, weight loss and lifestyle changes in addition to taking medications.  Another important reason to diagnose diabetes at the time of heart attack is that it can guide the treatments for the patient’s coronary artery disease.

The American Heart Association recommends that people who have a heart attack ask for a diabetes test if they have a family history of the disease or other risk factors such as:

  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels

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