Risk Factors of Repeated Hyperglycemia: Cardiovascular Complications


Typically physical activity is associated with hypOglycemia (low blood sugars) in a population with diabetes, but hypERglycemia (high blood sugars) should be an equal concern to an athlete with diabetes. For example, an athlete that hopes to be competitive in their sport, in-target blood sugars are vital to allow for adequate recovery after any training period. All that hard work is put to waste without giving your body the proper conditions to adapt and recover.  For both the competitive athlete and the weekend warrior, there are health concerns beyond athletic performance associated with hyperglycemic blood sugars.  Although athletic activity is a good tool in avoiding complications to diabetes, it will not shield you from them.  Good blood sugar control is the first and foremost concern.  Today’s blog is very education heavy about the cardiovascular of complications associated with hyperglycemia.  

HYPERGLYCEMIA is defined as a blood sugar above 200 mg/dL. This could be caused by a hormonal surge (stress response, high intensity activity, or dawn phenomenon), not enough insulin, insulin not given in a timely manner before a meal, the body's inability to properly use insulin. or illness.  What does it feel like? 
*these signs may be blunted if you are currently under poor control.
Hyperglycemia causes serious long-term problems, starting at a microvascular level. This complications present themselves through nerve damage, blindness, kidney disease and other problems.

Hyperglycemia also accelerates the development of atherosclerosis, which narrows the arteries and increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
According to the ADA, heart disease is the leading cause of diabetes-related deaths. People with diabetes are three to five times more likely to die of heart disease than those without diabetes. Two-thirds of people with diabetes surveyed failed to link their increased risk of cardiovascular disease to their diabetes!

The Epidemiology of Diabetes Intervention and Complications Study found that those patients who had received intensive treatment in the DCCT were 42% less likely to experience any cardiovascular disease event, and 57% less likely to experience nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, or death for cardiovascular disease.


The Scientific Side:

High blood sugars lead to high blood pressure. With all that extra sugar in the blood, it starts to get sticky like molasses. The heart will have to work much harder to push the molasses-like blood through blood vessels. Imagine how hard it would be to push molasses through a straw! This creates a higher blood pressure making the heart fatigue, and eventually enlarge, leading to further dysfunction.
High blood sugars increase LDLs- bad cholesterol. When blood sugar is high LDL cholesterol and the receptors in the liver that are responsible for removing LDL cholesterol become coated with sugar (glycosylated).  This inhibits the body from removing LDLs.  Even a well maintained diet, low in saturated fat will not help lower cholesterol unless blood glucose levels are consistently within target range.

What to do:

So hopefully you are aware of why it is important to avoid hyperglycemia. The question is how? Below are a few vital steps. Keep coming back to this blog for tips on how to achieve good blood sugar control.


  • ·      Bolus for meals 5-10 minutes before eating
  • ·      Avoid rebound highs from hypoglycemia: 15/15 rule (will explain next week)
  • ·      Check blood sugars frequently and ask physician if continuous glucose monitoring will benefit you