Can High Blood Sugar Increase the Risk of Heart Attack Complications?

By NIH: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Can having a high blood sugar level increase the risk of heart attack complications? According to a new study done by University of Leicester in England, it can.

The Study

Researchers in the UK found that high blood sugar levels can results in stronger contraction of blood vessels and the team identified a protein in the blood that is associated with this increased contraction. These findings could result in new treatments to improve the outcome in patients who have had a stroke or heart attack.

A heart attack happens when an artery that supplies blood to the heart becomes blocked. High blood sugar at the time of a heart attack, may result in the blockage becoming more severe by causing the artery to contract. These contractions cause more complications.

Dr. Richard Rainbow, a lecturer in cardiovascular cell physiology at the university stated, “We have shown the amount of blood sugar, or glucose, in the blood changes the behavior of blood vessels, making them contract more than normal. This could result in higher blood pressure, or could reduce the amount of blood that flows through vital organs.”

He went on to add, “This was an experimental lab study, which means we can draw conclusions about cause and effect in a controlled environment.”

Dr. Rainbow further states, “This is the first study to show direct evidence of blood vessel contraction due to glucose, and the potential mechanism behind this contractile response. In the experimental models we used in this study, including human blood vessels; increasing glucose to the levels that could be reached after a large meal altered vascular contraction.”

He added, “A large number of people who suffer a heart attack will have high glucose due to the ‘stress response’. This means that even people who are not diabetic may [have high blood sugar] during a heart attack.”

The results of the study were published in British Journal of Pharmacology.

Link between High Glucose and Heart Attack Complications

The link between high blood sugar and heart attack complications is now well established thanks to many research studies. In studies performed by the Joslin Diabetes Center done several years ago, researchers discovered a two-to-threefold increase in the incidence of heart disease in people with diabetes, as compared to those without diabetes. In females with diabetes there is an even larger risk of heart disease when compared with those of a similar age who did not have diabetes.


More study is needed in order to determine how to best treat cardiac patients who have high blood sugar. With more advances and a better understanding of how glucose causes heart attack and stroke complications, it will result in better treatment options and an increased mortality rate.


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