Doctors say that the vast majority of diabetic patients today have Type 2 diabetes, which is tied to obesity. The incidence has risen to epidemic proportions, they say, and the link to the heart can be disastrous.
“Cardiovascular disease is the inevitable death of people who have Type 2 diabetes, which at this point in our country is the fastest-growing disease, more than AIDs or cancer,” said Dr. Joseph Gutman, an endocrinologist and director of diabetes services at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach.
In fact, Gutman said, having diabetes is statistically the same thing as already having had a heart attack. And those who have had one heart attack are much more likely to have a second, he said.
Moreover, diabetic patients have a 25-fold higher risk of having a heart attack or a stroke than the general population, Gutman said.
“I see obese patients, 27 and 30 years old, and they discover that they have diabetes after having a heart attack,” he said. “I would say that probably in excess of 50 percent or better of my patients who have diabetes have some form of heart disease.”
But if patients control their diabetes, lose weight and control their cholesterol, their chances of having another heart attack can be reduced by 40, 50, sometimes 60 percent, he said.
“Those who have had a first heart attack tend to cooperate more,” he said. “Those that have not, but are at the same risk, tend to roll the dice — until they or a relative has a heart attack, and then they panic.”
Gutman said that anyone who has had diabetes 10 years or longer, or is over the age of 40, should visit a cardiologist.
“I am not about to sit quietly and watch my patients die without having prevented their death,” he said. “If you catch coronary artery disease early, you can do so much.”