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Prediabetes may increase risk of heart attack in young adults, study finds

Experts say there are serious long-term health risks linked with high blood sugar

Prediabetes concept
Photo (c) syahrir maulana - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association explored the health risks associated with prediabetes. According to the findings, high sugar levels may increase young people's risk of being hospitalized due to a heart attack.

“Prediabetes, if left untreated, can significantly impact health and progress to type 2 diabetes, which is known to increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease,” said researcher Dr. Akhil Jain.

“With heart attacks happening increasingly in young adults, our study was focused on defining the risk factors pertinent to this young population, so that future scientific guidelines and health policies may be better able to address cardiovascular disease risks in relation to prediabetes.” 

Long-term heart health risks

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from consumers between the ages of 18 and 44 who were enrolled in the National Inpatient Sample in 2018. They looked specifically at hospitalization records for young adults who had heart attacks. 

The team was able to identify a link between prediabetes and heart attack risk. The incidence of heart attack was over 2.1% for participants with prediabetes. That paled in comparison to the only 0.3% of people who had healthy blood sugar levels.

“After taking into account various influencing and modifying factors, we found that young adults with prediabetes had 1.7 times higher chances of being hospitalized for a heart attack compared to their peers without prediabetes,” said Dr. Jain. “Despite having higher chances of having a heart attack, the young adults with prediabetes did not have higher incidences of other major adverse cardiovascular events, such as cardiac arrest or stroke.” 

The team identified other health and demographic factors that impacted the participants’ heart health. Prediabetes was linked with higher risks of both obesity and high cholesterol, both of which can impact heart health. The researchers also learned that consumers with prediabetes who had higher incomes and those who were Black, Hispanic, or Asian/Pacific Islander were all more likely to be hospitalized with a heart attack. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope these findings encourage more consumers to take control of their health before prediabetes escalates. 

“When blood sugar levels meet the criteria for prediabetes, this is a wake-up call to take action,” said researcher Dr. Eduardo Sanchez. “It’s important for people with prediabetes to know lifestyle changes are key to improving their glucose levels and overall health, and possibly reversing prediabetes and preventing type 2 diabetes. 

“Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and losing weight, if needed, are all meaningful ways to reverse a prediabetes diagnosis. For smokers, participation in a program to stop smoking is also extremely important. Other lifestyle and behavior changes, like reducing stress, may seem small, yet they can have a large impact on many different areas of life and can make a difference as well.”

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