Diabetes Found to Increase Risk of Heart Attack Death

Long-term effects found among patients with diabetes who survive heart attacks.

A widespread study found that patients with diabetes have an approximately 50% greater risk of heart attack death.

For the study, researchers tracked 700,000 patients admitted to the hospital between January 2003 and June 2013 for a heart attack. Of these patients, there were 121,000 who had diabetes.

Data was adjusted for factors such as sex, age, additional illnesses, and differences in emergency medical treatment received. Published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the study’s findings showed that people with diabetes were 56% more likely to have died if they had experienced an ST elevation myocardial infraction (STEMI) heart attack compared with patients who did not have diabetes.

Furthermore, diabetes patients who had a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) heart attack were 39% more likely to have died compared with patients who did not have diabetes.

“These results provide robust evidence that diabetes is a significant long-term population burden among patients who have had a heart attack,” said lead researcher Chris Gale. “Although these days people are more likely than ever to survive a heart attack, we need to place a greater focus on the long-term effects of diabetes in heart attack survivors.”

As a result of these findings, authors suggest that relationships among physicians in various fields need to be strengthened to provide better care for patients.

“The partnership between cardiologists, GPs, and diabetologists needs to be strengthened and we need to make sure we are using established medications as effectively as possible among high-risk individuals,” Gale said.

At the beginning of the study, researchers knew that after a heart attack, patients were less likely to live if you also had diabetes; however, they were unsure whether it was due to diabetes or other conditions commonly seen in diabetic patients.

“This paper is the first to conclusively show that the adverse effect on survival is linked to having diabetes, rather than other conditions people with diabetes may suffer from,” Gale said. “This research highlights the need to find new ways to prevent coronary heart disease in people with diabetes and develop new treatments to improve survival after a heart attack."

Currently, the British Heart Foundation is funding researchers in Leeds to discover new ways of keeping blood vessels healthy in diabetic patients.

“While researchers tackle this issue, we know that managing diabetes effectively can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” Gale said. “This includes eating healthily, keeping active, and taking medications as prescribed by your doctor. It’s essential that people with diabetes get the support they need to do this effectively, and that we continue to fund research across the UK aimed at preventing the onset of complications in the first place.”