According to a review of the scientific literature in a 2014 edition of the European Cardiology Review, men with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely as those without it to suffer from heart failure, while the hearts of type 2 diabetic woman are four times more likely than non-diabetic ones to fail.
A new study in the journal, PLOS ONE, now explains why people with type 2 diabetes have such a high risk of heart failure. It reveals a way to potentially protect your heart.
Heart rate variability refers to your heart’s ability to change the rate at which it beats in response to what you do.
When you exercise, it needs to speed up. When you sleep, it needs to slow down. And between these two extremes, it needs to change how rapidly it beats in response to thousands of biological and environmental factors.
Heart rate variability is seen as a sign of good heart health, since it means your heart can successfully respond to its environment as it should.
A group of French scientists decided to analyze previously published studies to find out whether type 2 diabetes compromises our hearts’ ability to change the rate at which they beat.
A study qualified for inclusion in their analysis only if it measured heart rate variability over at least 24 hours using electrocardiography. This involves electrodes on your skin that pick up the electrical pulses your heart emits when it beats.
They found 25 sufficiently rigorous studies with 2,932 participants altogether. The participants with type 2 diabetes had an average age of 58, compared with that of those without diabetes whose average age was 56.
Most of the studies concluded that people with type 2 diabetes had lower heart rate variability than those without diabetes did.
The researchers could even offer an educated guess on the cause of the type 2 diabetes in participants as a lack of heart rate variability.
Your heart rate is controlled by your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, two parts of your autonomic nervous system.
Generally speaking, your sympathetic nervous system promotes the release of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine to speed up your heart rate, while your parasympathetic nervous system stimulates the release of the hormone acetylcholine to slow it down.
According to the new study, both the sympathetic and parasympathetic activity in participants with type 2 diabetics decline, most probably because diabetes damages the nerves that lead to your heart.
This impairs your body’s ability to speed up and slow down your heart as needed, putting you at risk of heart failure.
This is, according to these scientists, one of the reasons people with type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of heart failure than the rest of the population.
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