An alarming study shows that low blood sugar levels may lead to heart rhythm disturbances and even life-threatening heart attacks. Low overnight blood sugar levels that often go undetected cause prolonged periods of heart rhythm disturbances in older patients with type 2 diabetes and associated heart problems, revealed the research. "What we have found is potentially important in explaining a possible mechanism by which low overnight blood sugars leads to prolonged, slow heart rates that could disturb blood flow to the heart, causing life-threatening heart attacks," said Simon Heller, a professor from University of Sheffield in Britain. Through continuous glucose monitoring and electrocardiograms, the researchers tracked blood glucose levels and heart rates over a week in a group of older patients with Type 2 diabetes and a history of cardiovascular disease.
"While we expected to find some low overnight blood sugars we were startled to find how extensively it was occurring overnight and that it was sometimes lasting for several hours," Heller noted. Previous research has focused on the effects of high blood sugars on patients with diabetes, so more research was needed to understand how low blood sugars in patients with Type 2 diabetes caused irregular heartbeats, Heller emphasised. The findings of the research offers new insights into the 'Dead in Bed' syndrome - where young people without any history of long-term complications die suddenly from the disease. The study will appear in the forthcoming issue of Diabetes, the journal of the American Association of Diabetes.