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Diabetes Often Times Overlooked after Heart Attack

At least ten percent of people who have a heart attack may also have undiagnosed diabetes…. 

Many doctors fail to look for diabetes in patients who experience heart attacks. Heart disease is a risk factor for patients with diabetes, so a heart attack might be reason for doctors to test for diabetes.

A recent study led by Suzanne V. Arnold, MD, assistant professor at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute and the University of Missouri at Kansas City, and her team studied data from 2,854 patients who experienced a heart attack and had never been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

The study tested the patient’s A1C levels. It revealed that doctors often failed to recognize and begin treating diabetes in patients who have experienced heart attacks with no prior history of diabetes, even when the patient tested positive for diabetes. The researchers found among the patients, 287 or 10.1% of the patients who experienced heart attacks tested positive for diabetes. Out of the 287 patients who tested positive for diabetes less than one-third when discharged from the hospital received education or medication. According to the results, doctors failed to recognize diabetes in 198 or 69% of the previously undiagnosed patients. The researchers noted when the patient’s A1C test results were checked while they were being treated for their heart attack, there was a 17 times greater chance that the diabetes would be diagnosed.

In a press release, Dr. Arnold stated, "Diagnosing diabetes in patients who have had a heart attack is important because of the role diabetes plays in heart disease. 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." According to Dr. Arnold and her team, two in three patients with diabetes die from heart-related conditions. Patients with diabetes experience a significantly higher risk for a heart attack. The authors of the study concluded that people who have a heart attack should ask for a diabetes test if they present with other risk factors such as being overweight, high blood pressure, or a family history of diabetes.

Practice Pearls:
  • Two in three patients with diabetes die from heart-related conditions.
  • At least ten percent of people who have a heart attack may also have undiagnosed diabetes.
  • Less than a third of those diagnosed with diabetes during their hospitalization received diabetes education or medications at discharge.

This study was presented on June 3rd at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2014.