A new study suggests that even a single episode of extremely low blood sugar in type 2 diabetics is enough to increase their risk of death, heart disease, and stroke. This episode of low blood sugar—known as hypoglycemia—has to be serious enough for a patient to be admitted to a hospital for immediate treatment.
The researchers speculate that an episode of severe hypoglycemia is enough to have lasting effects on a type 2 diabetic’s health. Yet, it’s not unclear from the study whether those patients who experienced severe hypoglycemia were sicker than those who did not experience extreme drops in blood sugar.
The study involved 1,200 type 2 diabetics who were followed on average for 15 years. Over the course of the study, nearly 200 patients experienced a hypoglycemia episode that required hospitalization. One-third of those patients died within three years of that episode.
Heart disease and stroke risk was doubled among those with severe hypoglycemia. Doctors suggest that type 2 diabetics who have experienced an episode of severe hypoglycemia should be carefully monitored for future medical problems.
Senior author of the study Elizabeth Selvin explained, “Hypoglycemia is clearly an under-recognized risk factor for death and cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes. We are treating many people in this country for high blood sugar. They need to be very careful that their treatment doesn’t go too far and cause hypoglycemia, a potentially more serious condition than we have truly understood.”
Diabetes affects 29 million Americans with 85 percent of them taking medications to control their blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes is preventable with healthy lifestyle habits, which can also go a long way in reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. These lifestyle habits include exercising regularly, eating well, not smoking, reducing stress, getting proper sleep, managing other health conditions, and maintaining a healthy weight.