Undiagnosed diabetes threatens heart attack patients
As a risk factor for heart disease, it’s vital to diagnose diabetes as early as possible to prevent complications in the future.
According to a new study presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association, at least one in 10 people experiencing a heart attack may have undiagnosed diabetes. Researchers analyzed 2,854 heart attack patients at 24 U.S. hospitals to determine the prevalence of diabetes and how often the disease was diagnosed.
Diabetes plays a significant role in heart disease, causing atherosclerosis, plaque formation and narrowing of the blood vessels, says Dr. Shahwar Syed, Internal Medicine Physician on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital. “Many times, diabetes is not diagnosed right away because it is often a silent disease and can be asymptomatic,” Dr. Syed says. “That’s why it’s important for diabetes to be diagnosed early on so that it can be managed to reduce the risk of adverse health conditions like heart attack and stroke.”
Results of the study showed that 10 percent of heart attack patients were newly diagnosed with diabetes by receiving a hemoglobin A1C test, which determines blood sugar levels for the past two to three months. Researchers also found that physicians failed to diagnose diabetes in 69 percent of the previously undiagnosed patients. However, doctors were 17 percent more likely to recognize a patients’ diabetes if they had checked their A1C levels.
According to Dr. Syed, diabetes is not always diagnosed during a heart attack because glucose metabolism changes as a result of increased stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. “As a result, doctors may assume that blood glucose levels are higher due to the heart attack rather than diabetes,” Dr. Syed explains. “That’s why it’s important for heart attack patients to receive an A1C test to accurately diagnose if they have diabetes.”
This study highlights the importance of diagnosing diabetes in heart attack patients to help guide their treatment. After six months, researchers found that 71 percent of patients who were diagnosed during their hospital stay were taking medication for their diabetes. Of the 198 patients not accurately diagnosed with diabetes, less than 7 percent were taking medication during the same timeframe.
“It’s important to diagnoses diabetes at the time of a heart attack to guide the patient’s treatment and help decrease the risk of a second heart attack and other complications,” Dr. Syed says.
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