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January 26, 2004


Question from New York, New York, USA:

On several occasions I have had blood sugar readings less than 40 mg/dl [2.2 mmol/L]. While bringing my level up either by eating or glucose tabs, I experienced heart palpitations requiring a visit to the E.R. These rapid and not normal rhythm palpations only happened during a low blood sugar reading. Can these heart palpitations (rate of 150 to 190 beats) be caused by a low blood sugar? I was told it was atrial fibrillation.


During hypoglycemia or low blood sugar states, you could be producing epinephrine which is a counter-regulatory hormone to help raise your glucose. This hormone can cause rapid heart beat and the symptoms that you are experiencing. Atrial fibrillation is a change in the heart rhythm which is usually constant and requires treatment with either medication or cardiac intervention.

I would talk to your physician and possibly seek and opinion from a cardiologist. There are many different tests to determine whether this is a result of hypoglycemia or from a primary heart problem.