Beta blockers could reduce risk of death for people with diabetes and hypoglycemia

by Barbara Hewitt on February 26, 2019

Beta blockers, a drug commonly used to treat high blood pressure, could reduce the risk of death among those with type 2 diabetes and the related complication of hypoglycemia, new research has found.

Scientists from the Leicester Diabetes Centre in England, a partnership and collaboration between Leicester’s Hospitals and the University of Leicester, investigated how beta blockers might affect diabetics who experience hypos.

(A and N photography/

‘We wanted to look into whether there’s a link between a specific class of beta-blocker and mortality among those with diabetes who experience hypoglycemia,’ said researcher Dr Francesco Zaccardi, who led the trial.

The research involved more than 13,000 people who all had insulin treated diabetes and over the course of the trial, the team recorded hypoglycemic episodes and any cardiovascular events among those who took different classes of beta blockers.

The researchers pointed out that 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.

They found that beta1 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 hypoglycemia.

‘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,’ said Zaccardi.

‘We would always recommend seeking the advice of a doctor or healthcare professional before changing or stopping any type of medication,’ he added.

Kamlesh Khunti, professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester and is also a co-director at the Leicester Diabetes Centre, pointed out that the increasing prevalence of aging 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 hypoglycemia-related death,’ he explained.

‘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 beta1 selective beta blockers should be prescribed to people who suffer from frequent hypoglycemic episodes in a bid to reduce their risk of death and cardiovascular events,’ he added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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