Light shed on sudden bed death syndrome

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NEW INSIGHTS into the effects of dipping blood sugars could shed vital light on “Dead in Bed” syndrome, where young people without health problems die suddenly from Type 2 diabetes.

Low overnight blood sugar levels often go undetected and cause unexpectedly prolonged periods of heart rhythm disturbances in older patients with Type 2 diabetes and associated heart problems, a new study has shown.

The research, led by Professor Simon Heller of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Sheffield, could offer vital clues to how low blood sugar levels could contribute to life-threatening changes in heart rhythm, a major risk for patients with diabetes.

And it may also shed new light on the ‘Dead in Bed’ syndrome – where young people without any history of long-term complications die suddenly from the disease. Previous studies had ruled out a direct effect.

Prof Heller said: “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. When this occurred, we also saw evidence of prolonged periods of very slow heart rate rhythms in patients. While a cause for concern, these slow heart rates were not associated with any very serious heart rhythm disturbances in the study.”

The findings suggest people on standard insulin therapy should be aware of risk of low blood sugar at night, particularly if they have known cardiovascular disease, Prof Heller added.

AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert.

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