Low blood sugar can cause ‘irregular heart rhythms in diabetics’

29 April 2014

When blood sugar levels drastically drop overnight it can cause prolonged periods of heart rhythm disturbances in older patients with type 2 diabetes and other heart problems, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.

The findings could provide insights into the mechanism by which blood sugar levels contribute to dangerous changes in heart rhythm - which is a major risk for diabetics.

Results from the study also shed light on the ‘Dead in Bed’ syndrome - a term used to describe how young diabetics without a history of complications suddenly die from the disease.

Professor Simon Heller, co-author of the study, said: "We don't want to alarm patients, but what we've found is potentially important in explaining a possible mechanism by which low overnight blood sugars lead to prolonged, slow heart rates that could disturb blood flow to the heart, causing life-threatening heart attacks.”

He added that the team didn’t expect to find low overnight blood sugars occurring as extensively as it was, and they soon realised it was lasting for several hours. Scientists observed slow heart rate rhythms in patients when this happened.  

According to the professor, doctors need to be aware of the effects of low blood sugar during the night so they can alter the therapy for those patients with a history of cardiovascular disease.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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