High blood sugar levels increases death risk in hospitalized elderly

A group of Spanish researchers is calling for elderly patients who are admitted to hospitals to be tested for type 2 diabetes following a recent study they conducted, which found that many individuals die while in the hospital from undiagnosed blood sugar-related problems.

A team of researchers from the Hospital Ramon y Cajal in Madrid administered blood sugar tests to 808 patients over the age of 60 who were admitted to hospitals in Spain and Italy. When they excluded patients who had already been diagnosed with diabetes, they found that 25 percent of the participants had fasting blood sugar tests that would qualify them for the disease.

Furthermore, these patients were significantly more likely to die while hospitalized. Individuals with blood sugar levels between 126 and 180 mg/dl had a death rate of 18 percent, while the death rate for those with blood sugar over 180 mg/dl was 31 percent. Comparatively, only 8 percent of those with normal blood sugar died. The death rate for patients with diagnosed diabetes was between 14 and 23 percent.

The researchers said that their findings show that high blood sugar levels in patients with undiagnosed diabetes is a clear risk of premature death, and that hospitals should consider revising their policies for taking in new patients to make sure that they do not have this risk factor.

"It underlines the importance of testing elderly patients for fasting glucose levels on admission to hospital for acute illnesses and suggests that a blood glucose level of 180 mg/dl or less might be an appropriate target in people who have not been diagnosed with diabetes," said Fabio Monzani, a researcher who contributed to the study.
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