It has long been known that a diabetes diagnosis is associated with a high risk factor for heart disease.

But new research shows that the outlook is even more serious.

There’s a higher risk of people with diabetes dying after a heart attack.

diabetes and heart attack

A 10-year study at the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine examined data from the acute myocardial infarction (MI) registry of the United Kingdom.

Researchers concluded that the subjects with diabetes had a 56 percent higher chance of dying after a heart attack when the coronary artery was completely blocked.

Even with partial blockage, people with diabetes had a 39 percent higher risk factor.

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Study makes the connection

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, was based on examining more than 700,000 people, or 1.94 million person-years. This long-term research included more than 120,000 individuals with diabetes.

Even after eliminating the effects of age, sex, any other illnesses and differences in the emergency medical treatment received, the team found striking differences in survival rates between those with diabetes and those without.

Dr. Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, said in a press release, “We knew that following a heart attack, you are less likely to survive if you also have diabetes. However, we did not know if this observation was due to having diabetes or having other conditions which are commonly seen in people with diabetes.”

He emphasized that this research paper was the first to conclusively show that the adverse effect on survival is linked to having diabetes, rather than other conditions people with diabetes may have.

Rather than solely focusing on control of blood sugars in people with diabetes, it is critical that heart disease prevention is an important aspect of care.

Dr. Knapton added, “This research highlights the need to find new ways to prevent coronary heart disease in people with diabetes,” he said. “We are currently funding researchers in Leeds to find new ways of keeping blood vessels healthy in people with diabetes in the fight for every heartbeat.”

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Prevention and diagnosis

Early prevention and diagnosis of both diabetes and cardiovascular disease are imperative.

Since this combination of factors has been proven to be particularly deadly, being aware of risk factors and predisposition to developing diabetes is key.

And for individuals who are already pre-diabetic or diabetic, attention to cardiovascular health is even more important, researchers said.

Dr. Anna Morris, head of research funding at Diabetes UK, said, “While researchers tackle this issue, we know that managing diabetes effectively can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This includes eating healthily, keeping active, and taking medications as prescribed by your doctor.”

Communication between physicians who share patients with both diabetes and cardiac complications is also essential.

Lead researcher Chris Gale, Ph.D., consultant cardiologist and associate professor at the University of Leeds School of Medicine, added, “Although these days people are more likely than ever to survive a heart attack, we need to place greater focus on the long-term effects of diabetes in heart attack survivors. The partnership between cardiologists, G.P.s, and endocrinologists needs to be strengthened.”

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