COVID-19 and low or high blood glucose levels increase the risk of cardiovascular and renal problems, study reveals

People with low or high blood glucose levels when admitted to hospital with COVID-19 are more likely to develop cardiovascular and renal complications, according to new research.

Researchers analysed routinely collected hospital data from more than 36,000 adults who were hospitalised with COVID-19 between February 2020 and March 2021. They used the data to evaluate the connection between glucose levels on admission and the risks of in-hospital cardiovascular or renal problems.

Results showed that more than 25 per cent of the participants experienced health complications during their time in hospital. Complications included cardiac arrest, heart failure, stroke, renal injury, arrhythmia, cardiac ischemia, and coagulation issues.

The findings also indicated that individuals who had hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) or hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose levels) when they were admitted to hospital had a greater risk of developing a cardiovascular or renal problem.

The researchers from the University of Leicester revealed that the participants who recovered from a cardiovascular or renal complication after being hospitalised with COVID-19 had a higher probability of experiencing long-term morbidity.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands supported the research study.

Dr Tom Norris, one of the lead researchers and a Research Fellow in Epidemiology, explained: “These findings highlight the importance of routine glucose screening on admission in order to implement individual treatment plans aimed at modifying any deleterious glucose levels.

“We also found that a number of these associations may be modified by age and diabetes status, with stronger effects observed in those of younger age and without a pre-existing diagnosis of diabetes.”

Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE, Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and the Real World Evidence Unit and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “This study has highlighted how vital it is to test blood glucose levels when being admitted to hospital. Detecting hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia early may prevent severe health complications from developing.

“Tackling this issue will reduce the number of cardiovascular and renal complications as a result of high or low blood glucose levels. Further research should evaluate interventions to optimise admission glucose on improving COVID-19 outcomes.”

View the full research study here.

Photo by Anna Shvets

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