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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Attack May Predict Diabetes

Habits That Help the Heart May Also Help Prevent Diabetes in Heart Attack Survivors
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 24, 2007 -- Attention, heart attack survivors: You may be at risk for diabetes or prediabetes, so eat right, don't smoke, and get your blood sugar tested.

That's the take-home message of a new study published in The Lancet.

Doctors have long known that diabetes makes heart disease, including heart attacks, more likely. Now, the new study shows that the pathway from diabetes to heart attacks is a two-way street.

Data came from nearly 8,300 Italians who had survived a heart attack up to three months before the study began. They got checkups and completed surveys on their smoking, diet, and lifestyle.

None of the patients had diabetes or prediabetes when the study began. But over an average follow-up time of 3.5 years, nearly two-thirds of them -- 62% -- developed diabetes or prediabetes.

Most of those patients developed prediabetes, which can lead to diabetes. Out of all the heart attack survivors studied, 12% developed full-blown diabetes.

In short, the heart attack survivors were much more likely than the general public to be diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, according to the researchers, who included Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health.

Preventing Diabetes After a Heart Attack

The study isn't just a stream of statistics. It also highlights habits that helped or hurt heart attack survivors' odds of developing diabetes or prediabetes.

The don't-go-there list includes smoking, being overweight or obese, and not eating a traditional Mediterranean diet that favors fruit, vegetables, and olive oil.

The go-for-it list is the flip side of those risky habits: don't smoke, lose extra weight, and eat a traditional Mediterranean diet.

For instance, nonsmokers were 60% less likely than current smokers to be diagnosed with diabetes. Patients who most closely followed a traditional Mediterranean diet were 35% less likely to develop diabetes than those who largely dismissed their region's traditional diet.

Mozaffarian's team can't rule out other influences, such as the patients' exercise habits, that may affect diabetes risk.

But the findings generally show that the same lifestyle habits that are good for the heart may also help prevent diabetes after a heart attack.

An editorial by Lionel Opie, MD, of the Hatter Cardiovascular Research Institute at South Africa's University of Cape Town, states that "these findings further tied the knot between myocardial infarction [heart attack] and hyperglycemia [high blood sugar] -- each causes the other."

Had a heart attack? Ask your doctor how to keep future heart attacks -- and diabetes -- at bay.

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