To continue reading please register or login to your OHW+ account.
Doctors have known for years that people with diabetes are at higher risk of sudden death, but now research has suggested that, years before developing diabetes, people who have what is known as ‘insulin resistance’ can be more likely to develop abnormal heart rhythms.
Using data from 1,448 people aged 60-64, researchers at University College London found an association between signs of insulin resistance and markers that indicate an increased risk of developing dangerous arrhythmias, a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat.
These arrhythmias may increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, where the heart suddenly stops beating. The research, presented at a British Cardiovascular Society conference this month, was funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
Arrhythmias can increase the risk of sudden cardiac death, where the heart suddenly stops beating. Insulin resistance often has no symptoms, so people may be unaware they have developed it.
It develops when cells in your muscles, fat and liver don’t respond well to insulin. This affects how they’re able to take up glucose (sugar) from the blood, meaning levels of glucose in the blood remain too high, forcing the pancreas to work extra hard to keep levels down.
This is the largest study to date to show that people with insulin resistance, who are otherwise apparently healthy, may be at higher risk of developing dangerous arrhythmias, and therefore sudden death, warned the BHF.
Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, BHF associate medical director and cardiologist, said: “Understanding the link between insulin resistance and heart rhythm disturbances is particularly important as insulin resistance can be diagnosed, prevented and potentially reversed.
“However, many people won’t know that they have insulin resistance until it has developed into diabetes. We need to make it easier for people to maintain a healthy diet, weight and to get more exercise to reduce thei
Nic Paton is editor of Occupational Health & Wellbeing, within OHW+. One of the country's foremost workplace health journalists, Nic has written for Occupational Health & Wellbeing since 2001, and has edited the magazine since 2018.