How Do Symptoms Of A Heart Attack Differ In People With Diabetes?

Question: How do symptoms of a heart attack differ in people with diabetes?

Answer: Well, if you have diabetes -- particularly for a long time -- it can alter how the body responds to sort of, the heart, the pain the heart is feeling. I've studied this for many years, and we actually describe that individuals with diabetes, like yourself, may not have typical chest pain or angina pectoris when they have a heart attack. Some of these patients actually may have chest pressure, milder pressure; they may not have any pain at all in the chest, instead they may notice the acute onset of shortness of breath, or sweating, or sometimes you may even experience some weird change in your glucose level that you can't explain. And in those cases that could be what's called an equivalent -- an anginal equivalent -- for heart attack.


This is a problem in patients like yourself with diabetes, because if you don't recognize you're having a heart attack because of the unusual nature of these symptoms, you may not go to the emergency room as fast as you should. And we know that when you have a heart attack, how quickly delivered those treatments for heart attack are given to you, the better the outcome you will have. So be mindful of the fact that if you have any symptoms that are unusual in the chest or affect your breathing, this could represent sort of the equivalent of heart pain, even though it's not the classic crushing chest pain you may have heard about.

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