Diabetes Care 2012 Jul 18;35(7):1585-90. Epub 2012 May 18.
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.
Objective: Experimental clamp studies have suggested that hypoglycemia evokes a reduction of cardiac vagal control in patients with type 1 diabetes. However, there are limited data on the influence of spontaneous nocturnal hypoglycemia on cardiac autonomic regulation.
Research Design And Methods: Adults with type 1 diabetes (n = 37) underwent continuous glucose monitoring via a subcutaneous sensor as well as recording of R-R interval or electrocardiogram for 3 nights. Heart rate (HR) variability was analyzed during periods of hypoglycemia (glucose <3.5 mmol/L) (minimum length of 20 min) and a control nonhypoglycemic period (glucose >3.9 mmol/L) of equal duration and at the same time of night.
Results: The duration of hypoglycemic and control episodes (n = 18) ranged from 20 to 190 min (mean 71 min). HR (62 ± 7 vs. 63 ± 9 beats per min; P = 0.30) or the high-frequency component of HR power spectrum (2,002 ± 1,965 vs. 1,336 ± 1,506 ms(2); P = 0.26) did not change during hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia resulted in a significant decrease in the low-frequency component of HR variability (2,134 ± 1,635 vs. 1,169 ± 1,029 ms(2), respectively; P = 0.006). The decline in the glucose concentration displayed a significant positive correlation with the decrease of the low-frequency component of HR variability (r = 0.48; P = 0.04). The latter was closely related to an increase in muscle sympathetic nerve activity recorded in 10 subjects during controlled sympathetic activation.
Conclusions: Spontaneous nocturnal hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes results in a reduction of the low-frequency component of HR, which is best explained by excessive sympathetic activation without a concomitant withdrawal of vagal outflow.