Skip to content

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Diabetes Increases Heart Attack Risk

Findings Point Out Need to Aggressively Treat Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Researchers Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 31, 2008 -- Adults being treated for diabetes are just as likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die from cardiovascular causes as people who have had a prior heart attack, new research shows.

They are also twice as likely as non-diabetics to die following a heart attack, the study revealed.

Researchers say the population study confirms the importance of treating cardiovascular risk factors as aggressively as diabetes in adults with type 1 or type 2 disease.

"Adults who need glucose-lowering drugs are at very high risk for heart attacks and strokes, and they need to be monitored closely for this and treated with appropriate medications," study researcher Tina Ken Schramm, MD, tells WebMD.

Diabetes and Heart Risk

By examining Danish population registries, Schramm and colleagues from Denmark's Gentofte University Hospital followed 3.3 million adults over the age of 30 for five years between 1997 and 2002, including 71,801 people with diabetes and 79,575 who had had a previous heart attack.

Because of the comprehensive nature of the Danish registries, the researchers were able to identify and include all patients in the country with diabetes who were being treated with blood sugar-lowering drugs.

Patients being treated for diabetes had a cardiovascular risk comparable to patients without diabetes who had experienced a previous heart attack.

And compared with people without diabetes or a previous heart attack, the risk of having a heart attack was 11 times greater for women and seven times greater for men with both diabetes and a prior heart attack, Schramm tells WebMD.

"The increased risk was observed at all ages with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes who were receiving insulin or other drugs to reduce levels of sugar in the blood," Schramm notes. "When people with diabetes do have heart attacks, they are twice as likely to die as nondiabetics."

Drugs and Lifestyle Changes

Schramm says patients on insulin or those taking drugs to control their blood sugar should talk to their doctor about also taking low-dose aspirin for their heart, and their blood pressure and cholesterol should be monitored closely and treated aggressively.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
kenneth fujioka, md
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Middle aged person
Home Healthcare

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
type 2 diabetes
food fitness planner