Blood Sugar Drops, Heart Problems Rise

Hypoglycemia in type 2 diabetes may increase risk of cardiovascular events and death

December 8, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

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(dailyRx News) High blood sugar isn't the only thing that's dangerous for patients with diabetes. Low blood sugar can also do damage.

Type 2 diabetes patients with hypoglycemia (blood sugar that is too low) may have a higher risk of heart problems, hospitalization and death, according to a recent study.

Results showed that diabetes patients had these increased risks whether they had mild or severe hypoglycemia. That is, any amount of low blood sugar was associated with an increased risk of complications.

"Control your blood sugar to prevent diabetes."

Past research has shown that low blood sugar can lead to serious health problems in patients with type 2 diabetes. However, the outcomes of diabetes patients with mildly low blood sugar is still unclear. To address this issue, Pai-Feng Hsu, MD, of Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan, and colleagues studied the outcomes of diabetes patients who had experienced periods of low blood sugar.

Compared to those without low blood sugar, patients who experienced either mild or severe low blood sugar had higher rates of complications, including:

  • high blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • heart disease

The researchers also found that patients with either mild and severe low blood sugar had a higher risk of:

  • heart disease, with a hazard ratio of 2.09
  • hospitalization from any cause, with a hazard ratio of 2.51
  • death, with a hazard ratio of 2.48

A hazard ratio explains how much an event happens in one group versus another. A hazard ratio of more than 1.0 means the event happens more often in the first group.

In this case, the events were heart disease, hospitalization and death. All of the hazard ratios were more than 2.0, indicating that those with low blood sugar had significantly higher risks of these events than those without low blood sugar.

According to the authors, these findings suggest that diabetes patients with episodes of low blood sugar may need more attention from their doctors.

The study included 77,611 patients who experienced 1,844 episodes of low blood sugar. Of these episodes, 500 were severe and 1,344 were mild.

The study was published December 5 in Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.