People with diabetes (fasting blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL or greater) are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack than people without diabetes. According to the American Heart Association in June 2014, at least 10 percent of people who suffer a heart attack have undiagnosed diabetes.

Reasons why people with diabetes are at increased risk for a heart attack may be that they are more likely to have elevated triglyceride and low HDL cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and obesity, and also that diabetes itself contributes to heart attacks.

This higher risk is especially true for women. For example, young women with diabetes lose the protection that other pre-menopausal women have against heart attacks. In fact, women with diabetes have the same frequency of heart attacks as men of the same age who do not have diabetes.

People with pre-diabetes also have an increased chance of heart attacks. They have fasting blood glucose levels that are higher than normal (100 to 125 mg/dL) but not quite in the diabetes range.

Careful control of blood glucose levels with diet, exercise, and medication (if necessary) may reduce heart attack risk in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. However, these measures do not completely eliminate the increased risk. Therefore, if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, it is important to aggressively control any other risk factors for a heart attack that you might have.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Roger S. Blumenthal, M.D. and Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: 08 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 15 Jan 2015