According to a new 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 startling 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 of three people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease. In a medical catch 22, diabetes significantly raises the risk for heart attack. Lead study author Suzanne V. Arnold, M.D., M.H.A., assistant professor at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and the University of Missouri at Kansas City pointed out that, “Diagnosing diabetes in patients who have had a heart attack is important because of the role diabetes plays in heart disease.”
Researchers also found that doctors actually 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. Dr. Arnold continued, “By recognizing and treating diabetes early, we may be able to 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:
• Physical inactivity
• High blood pressure
• Abnormal cholesterol levels