Objective: In some studies intensive diabetes treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes may be associated with increased cardiovascular events. It is not clear whether these events are related to hypoglycemic episodes. To determine whether episodes of hypoglycemia were more likely to be associated with cardiac ischemia than normoglycemia or hyperglycemia, we carried out a study in 21 patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) and type 2 diabetes treated with insulin who had good glycemic control.
Research design and methods: We carried out 72-h continuous glucose monitoring along with simultaneous cardiac Holter monitoring for ischemia. Patients also recorded symptoms of cardiac ischemia (chest pain) and symptoms of hypoglycemia.
Results: Satisfactory continuous glucose monitoring system recordings were obtained in 19 patients. We recorded 54 episodes of hypoglycemia (blood glucose <70 mg/dl; 26 of these were symptomatic) and 59 episodes of hyperglycemia (blood glucose >200 mg/dl; none symptomatic). Of the 54 episodes of hypoglycemia, 10 were associated with symptoms of chest pain, during 4 of which electrocardiographic abnormalities were documented. In contrast, only 1 episode of chest pain occurred during 59 episodes of hyperglycemia. No chest pain or electrocardiographic abnormalities occurred when the blood glucose was within the normal range. The difference between the frequency of ischemia during hypoglycemia and the frequency during both hyperglycemia and normoglycemia was statistically significant (P < 0.01). There were 50 episodes during which the blood glucose changed by >100 mg over a 60-min period, and ischemic symptoms occurred during 9 of these episodes (P < 0.01 compared with stable normoglycemia or hyperglycemia).
Conclusions: Hypoglycemia is more likely to be associated with cardiac ischemia and symptoms than normoglycemia and hyperglycemia, and it is particularly common in patients who experience considerable swings in blood glucose. These data may be important in the institution of insulin treatment and attempting near-normal glycemia in patients with known CAD. Further research is needed to determine strategies to prevent ischemia associated with hypoglycemia.