Congenital heart disease could cause low blood sugar

A new study from the University of Copenhagen suggests that congenital arrhythmia – abnormal heartbeat – could be influenced by the body's ability to handle sugar.

The results may be important for the future treatment of diabetes, researchers wrote in the journal Diabetes.

Insulin doubles

The study, which included 14 patients with congenital heart disease and 28 healthy control subjects, found that people with congenital arrhythmia produce twice the amount of insulin after they consume sugar. A few hours after eating something sweet, the patients' blood sugar decreases drastically, too.

"We show that patients with a particular kind of congenital arrhythmia become hypoglycemic after meals," said assistant professor Signe Torekov, Department of Biomedical Sciences and The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research at University of Copenhagen. "This further increases their risk of heart failure. For that reason, the patients have to pay attention, for example by changing diet and lowering the meal size to avoid low blood sugar levels."

Implications

Low blood sugar can cause symptoms like cramps, fatigue, irritability, anger, and even blackouts or heart failure. Results of the study indicate that patients with heart disease might experience these symptoms of hypoglycemia – which doctors tend to attribute to the arrhythmia.

"The feelings of discomfort were also caused by their blood sugar being too low," Torekov concluded. "With our discovery we can connect a specific potassium-ion channel to blood sugar levels, and this could benefit the diabetes patients of the future, because we will be able to gather more knowledge on the bodies' sugar metabolism."

Source: University of Copenhagen

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