Impaired modulation of circadian rhythms in patients with diabetes mellitus: a risk factor for cardiac thrombotic events?

Chronobiol Int. 2001 Jan;18(1):109-21. doi: 10.1081/cbi-100001175.


Serious adverse cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction, sudden cardiac death, and stroke, frequently result from rupture of atherosclerotic plaques with superimposed thrombosis and exhibit a pronounced circadian rhythmicity, peaking in the morning hours. Two potentially synergistic mechanisms play a pathogenic role in the circadian variation of arterial thrombotic events. A morning surge in sympathetic activity alters hemodynamic forces and predisposes vulnerable coronary atherosclerotic plaques to rupture. Day-night variations of hemostatic and fibrinolytic factors result in morning hypercoagulability and hypofibrinolysis, promoting intraluminal thrombus formation at the same time when the risk for plaque rupture is highest. Diabetic patients have a very high cardiac event rate but fail to show normal circadian fluctuations in the occurrence of myocardial infarction. Alterations in the circadian variation autonomic tone, blood pressure, and the thrombotic-thrombolytic equilibrium have been documented in diabetic patients. These include reduced or absent 24-h periodicity in autonomic tone, fibrinolytic activity, and thrombotic tendency, and a blunted decline in nocturnal blood pressure. Disruption of these circadian rhythms explains the lack of significant circadian distribution of cardiac events in diabetic patients. Moreover, the loss of these normal biorhythms results in a continuous susceptibility to thrombotic events throughout the day and may contribute to the excess cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in these patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / complications
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / etiology
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / complications
  • Diabetic Neuropathies / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Myocardial Infarction / etiology
  • Rupture, Spontaneous
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Thrombosis / etiology*
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology