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The Dangerous Connection Between Diabetes and Heart Attacks: Are You At Risk?

The Dangerous Connection Between Diabetes and Heart Attacks: Are You At Risk?

By Brady White

Dec 2, 2015

Updated Oct 25, 2023

5 min read


“We’ve known for over a decade that patients with diabetes are at a much higher risk of suffering a heart attack than those who don’t have diabetes,” said Viet Le, PA-C, a researcher for the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. “Unfortunately, with the worry of treating the heart attack, we haven’t directed our full attention to assessing the presence of diabetes in heart patients to make sure they receive treatment.”

What This Means For You

Le recommends that hospitals and physicians implement a process to make sure blood tests that show the presence of diabetes are administered to every heart attack patient when they’re admitted. Patients and their loved ones should make sure these tests are performed. If the test confirms diabetes, the physician should begin treatment for the diabetes immediately — in addition to the care being provided for the patient’s heart condition.

“There’s a clear way we can easily make a huge difference for heart patients,” Le said. “Hospitals and physicians should implement a process to screen all patients who come in with a heart attack for diabetes, and if the patient has diabetes, we should make sure they receive treatment. A simple blood test administered upon admission is all it takes.”

More Details About the Study

For the study, researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute evaluated nearly 6,000 patients who were treated for heart attacks between 2002 and 2013 by Intermountain Healthcare clinicians.

Of those patients, 3,778 had no history of diabetes prior to being admitted to the hospital. After examining their blood test results, however, researchers identified 707 patients who met criteria for a diabetes diagnosis. But of the 707, only 30 percent were actually clinically diagnosed with diabetes at that time and were receiving treatment, either at the time of hospitalization or soon thereafter, researchers found.

Researchers examined adverse outcomes for patients who were diagnosed and treated for diabetes compared to those who met the criteria for diabetes but weren’t diagnosed. They found that deaths, repeat heart attacks, heart failure admissions, and strokes were all significantly reduced among patients who’d been diagnosed.

Diabetic patients who were undiagnosed and/or untreated had an increased risk of complications and death.

Results of the study were presented last month at the American Heart Association’s 2015 Scientific Session in Orlando.

Learn more about Intermountain's Diabetes and Endocrinology program

A previous study by the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that any level of impaired blood glucose is associated with poorer cardiovascular outcomes.  This updated study confirms that heart attack patients with diabetes, whether previously or newly diagnosed, face a greater risk of future heart problems.

Members of the research team included Stacey Knight, PhD, MStat, Jeffrey Anderson, MD, Donald Lappé, MD, Heidi May, PhD, Benjamin Horne, PhD, and Brent Muhlestein, MD.