Even a single episode of severe hypoglycemic condition -- having low blood glucose levels -- may be associated with nearly double the risk of cardiovascular disease or death in older adults with Type 2 diabetes, a study has found.
Diabetes is a condition marked by the inability of the body to properly manage the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Poorly controlled blood sugar -- when blood sugar levels are too high -- can lead to future complications such as blindness and nerve damage.
The findings showed that a third of the older adults with diabetes who had experienced a severe low blood sugar episode died within three years of the incident.
“Hypoglycemia is clearly an under-recognised risk factor for death and cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes. People with high blood sugar need to be very careful that their treatment does not go too far and cause hypoglycemia, a potentially more serious condition than we have truly understood,” said Elizabeth Selvin, Professor at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, US.
The study was presented at the American Heart Association’s EPI|LIFESTYLE 2017 Scientific Sessions in Oregon.
Doctors might want to pay special attention to patients who have been sent to the emergency department for hypoglycemia after losing consciousness, having a seizure or experiencing another serious health event, the researchers suggested.
“If you have a patient with a history of severe hypoglycemia, this could portend poorly for his or her future,” added Alexandra K. Lee, doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins University.
For the study, the team analysed 1,198 participants with type 2 diabetes, who were followed for an average of 15 years. They found that 192 patients experienced hypoglycemia that led to an emergency room visit or hospitalisation.
In addition, it is not clear whether people who suffer from a hypoglycemic episode are already sicker than those who do not, or if the episode is what sickens them, the researchers said.