Severe Hypoglycemia Linked to Increased Risk of Death in People with Diabetes; Within Three Years of Dangerously Low Blood Sugar Episode Requiring ER Visit, One-Third of Those in Study Died

A single instance of blood sugar falling so low as to require an emergency department visit was associated with nearly double the risk of cardiovascular disease or death, according to results of a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study of older adults with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, using data from a large, longitudinal study, the researchers found that one third of the older adults with diabetes who had experienced a severe low blood sugar episode (hypoglycemia) died within three years of the incident. In analyzing their data, the researchers controlled for such variables as how severe a person's diabetes was and how long it had been since diagnosis. The researchers say that their findings suggest that 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 findings were presented on March 10, 2017 at the American Heart Association's EPI|LIFESTYLE 2017 Scientific Sessions in Portland, Oregon. The presentation was titled “"Association of Severe Hypoglycemia with Cardiovascular Disease and All-Cause Mortality in Older Adults with Diabetes: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study." "If you have a patient with a history of severe hypoglycemia, this could portend poorly for his or her future," says Alexandra K. Lee, MSPH, a Ph.D. candidate in epidemiology at the Bloomberg School. "Our thinking has been that you resolve a hypoglycemic episode and it's over.
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