Taking beta-blockers could reduce risk of death for people with type 2 diabetes who experience hypos.
A type of drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure could reduce the risk of death among those with type 2 diabetes and a related complication.
Researchers at Leicester Diabetes Centre conducted a study on the impact of taking beta-blockers for people with type 2 diabetes who experience hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels).
Hypoglycaemia, or a ‘hypo’, develops when sugar levels in the blood drops too low in people with diabetes. People who take insulin to control the condition can be at a higher risk of this complication.
Dr Francesco Zaccardi, who led the trial, said: “We wanted to look into whether there was a link between a specific class of beta-blocker and mortality among those with diabetes who experience hypoglycaemia.”
The results were recently published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases.
The study involved more than 13,000 people with diabetes on insulin to treat the condition.
Researchers recorded hypoglycaemic episodes and any heart-related health complications among those who took different classes of beta-blockers during the study.
Beta-blockers can be selective or non-selective. Selective beta-blockers mostly affect the heart, while non-selective ones affect other parts of the body.
Dr Zaccardi added: “We found that beta-1 selective beta-blockers, used to treat hypertension, chronic stable angina, heart failure and heart attacks, may potentially reduce the risk of death in those who experienced hypoglycaemia.
“However, we issue our conclusions with caution and we urge people not to suddenly stop taking beta-blockers because they could be in danger of making their health condition worse. We would always recommend seeking the advice of a doctor or healthcare professional before changing or stopping any type of medication.”
Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester and Co-Director at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, said: “The increasing prevalence of ageing and people who have diabetes and other serious health conditions has led to global increasing trends of hypoglycaemia and related deaths.
“It’s because of these worrying patterns that we wanted to investigate different approaches in a bid to reduce the burden of hypoglycaemia-related death.
“Although our findings are interesting after finding a significant signal, the take home message is that more work needs to be done before we recommend beta-1 selective beta-blockers should be prescribed to people who suffer from frequent hypoglycaemic episodes in a bid to reduce their risk of death and cardiovascular events.”
Dr Eleanor Kennedy, Research Manager at DRWF, agreed that this was an important and timely study.
Dr Kennedy said: “This is a large, well-conducted investigation to see if beta blockers, a very commonly used class of drug, can reduce the number of deaths in people with diabetes who experience hypoglycaemia. The results obtained are very interesting and could have a profound effect on the way that people with diabetes are treated in the future.”