Gains in reducing deaths due to heart disease could be wiped out by the ongoing upsurge in diabetes, U.S. researchers report. "Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has achieved dramatic reductions in illness and deaths from coronary artery disease," study lead author Dr. Jing Fang, formerly of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and now at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventation, said in a prepared statement. "But if this upsurge in diabetes-associated deaths and illnesses continues, it may put an end to the progress we've made in combating illness and death from coronary artery disease." Fang's team analyzed New York City death records for people 35 and older from 1989 to 1991 and from 1999 to 2001. In the decade that elapsed between these two periods, death rates due to stroke, cancer and all other diseases declined. The exception was the diabetes death rate, which increased by 61 percent. Over that decade, the percentage of heart attacks among people with diabetes increased from 21 percent to 36 percent. The total number of diabetics who had a heart attack more than doubled-from 2,951 to 6,048. While there was an overall decline among the general population in days spent in a hospital due to heart attack, diabetics showed an increase of 51 percent. "Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and the leading cause of death among people with diabetes is coronary heart disease," senior author Dr. Michael Alderman, professor of epidemiology and population health at Einstein, said in a prepared statement. "We expected to see an increase in hospitalizations due to heart attacks among diabetics, but we were surprised by the magnitude of the increase and the sharply rising trend indicated by these finding," Alderman said. (HealthyDay News) The findings appear in the February issue of the journal Diabetes.