One in Ten Heart Attack Patients Has Undiagnosed Diabetes

More than 10% of people admitted to the hospital with a heart attack were found to have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes in a new study presented at the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2014. Approximately 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, and roughly a quarter of those cases are undiagnosed.

In some cases, hospitalization for a heart attack is the first opportunity doctors have to recognize and treat a person’s Type 2 diabetes. To evaluate how common undiagnosed diabetes is in people who have had a heart attack, as well as to determine how frequently the diabetes is recognized, researchers looked at data from 2,854 heart attack patients without diagnosed diabetes from 24 US hospitals. They also checked the A1C levels, a measure of blood glucose control over the previous 2–3 months, of all the study subjects (but, as part of the study process, did not share the results with the patients’ doctors).


The researchers found that 287 of the people, or 10.1%, were newly diagnosed with diabetes based on the results of the A1C test taken for the study. In 198, or 69%, of the previously undiagnosed people, doctors failed to recognize the presence of diabetes. Of the 287 individuals with Type 2, less than a third received diabetes education or medicine upon being discharged from the hospital. And six months after being discharged, only 7% of people whose diabetes had not been detected during their hospital stay were receiving medicine for the condition, compared to 71% of those whose diabetes had been diagnosed upon hospitalization for the heart attack.

According to lead study author Suzanne V. Arnold, MD, MHA, “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.”

Having Type 2 diabetes significantly raises a person’s risk for having a heart attack, and two-thirds of people with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends that people who have had a heart attack ask to be checked for diabetes if they have a family history of the condition or other risk factors such as overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, or high blood pressure.

For more information, read the article “More than 10 percent of heart attack patients may have undiagnosed diabetes” or see the study’s abstract on the website of the American Heart Association’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Scientific Sessions 2014. And to learn more about preventing and dealing with a heart attack, click here.