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Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) in People Without Diabetes
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Topic Contents

Topic Overview

Is this topic for you?

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is most common in people who have diabetes. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and need more information about low blood sugar, see the topics:

What is low blood sugar?

You may have briefly felt the effects of low blood sugar when you've gotten really hungry or exercised hard without eating enough. This happens to nearly everyone from time to time. It's easy to correct and usually nothing to worry about.

But low blood sugar, or , can also be an ongoing problem. It occurs when the level of sugar in your blood drops too low to give your body energy.

What causes hypoglycemia in people who don't have diabetes?

Ongoing problems with low blood sugar can be caused by:

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can be different depending on how low your blood sugar level drops.

If you've had hypoglycemia during the night, you may wake up tired or with a headache. And you may have nightmares. Or you may sweat so much during the night that your pajamas or sheets are damp when you wake up.

How is hypoglycemia diagnosed?

To diagnose hypoglycemia, your doctor will do a physical exam and ask you questions about your health and any medicines you take. You will need blood tests to check your blood sugar levels. Some tests might include not eating (fasting) and watching for symptoms. Other tests might involve eating a meal that could cause symptoms of low blood sugar several hours later. The results of these types of tests can help diagnose the cause.

You may also need tests to look for or rule out health problems that could be affecting your blood sugar levels.

How is it treated?

You can treat a sudden episode of low blood sugar by eating or drinking something with sugar in it. Some examples of "quick-sugar foods" are fruit juice, soda, milk, raisins, and hard candy. You may also take glucose tablets. This is usually all that's needed to get your blood sugar level back up in the short term.

If your hypoglycemia is caused by a health condition, you may need treatment for that condition. There also may be steps you can take to avoid low blood sugar. For example, talk to your doctor about whether changes in your diet, medicines, or exercise habits might help.

What should you do in an emergency?

If mild or moderate hypoglycemia isn't treated right away, it can turn into severe hypoglycemia. People with severe hypoglycemia usually pass out. If you pass out, someone should 911 .

If you have a health problem that tends to cause low blood sugar, it's a good idea to teach your family, friends, and coworkers about what symptoms to watch for and what to do. You may also want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

Current as of May 3, 2017

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Convergence > Our Projects > Long-Term Care

Convergence Long-term Care Financing Collaborative

The Challenge


For the past three decades, policymakers have tried with little success to respond to the challenges of financing long-term services and supports (LTSS) to care for the millions of elderly and disabled Americans who need help. Long-term supports and services are non-medical assistance, such as food preparation, personal hygiene, assistive devices and transportation, as well as help with activities such as bathing and eating. Today, 10-12 million adults require supports that help them maintain the best possible quality of life, a number that is expected to double by 2030.

As our nation’s 78 million baby boomers age, demographic trends show declining availability of family caregivers and increasing reliance on paid care, either at home or in residential facilities.The out-of-pocket costs of such assistance can be catastrophic, and few people have the necessary resources, through savings or private long-term care insurance, to meet this need. Providing this assistance puts an enormous burden on family members and friends, often results in poor care, and frequently causes preventable harm that endangers recipients of care and their caregivers, and increases medical costs.

Finding New Solutions In 2012, a group of policy experts representing a wide range of interests and ideological views created The Long-Term Care Financing Collaborative to re-energize this discussion and build a foundation for new thinking and innovation. They asked Convergence to serve as the convener and facilitator. Through a series of structured meetings based on the Convergence dialogue-leading-to-action model, Convergence first helped Collaborative members better understand each other’s personal and professional interests and values as a foundation for their work.

Finding New Solutions

In subsequent meetings, the group developed two interim sets of recommendations:

The Collaborative also was instrumental in helping build a unique research partnership between The Urban Institute and the actuarial firm Milliman that led to a common understanding of the actuarial and economic impacts of several long-term care financing options. As a result of these efforts, the Collaborative laid the groundwork for establishing a comprehensive, holistic set of recommendations for providing effective and efficient long-term care delivery and financing.

Review the collaborative’s final recommendations.

Learn More

“America faces an enormous challenge in figuring out how to address and pay for the long-term needs of aging Baby Boomers and the generations that will follow them. We need to imagine ways to shift from a more welfare-based financing system to a primarily insurance-based system that meets the needs of individuals and their caregivers. We need to have an honest discussion of the obligations we have to each other.”

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Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)

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A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is a medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly and severely reduced or cut off, causing the muscle to die from lack of oxygen. More than 1.1 million people experience a heart attack (myocardial infarction) each year, and for many of them, the heart attack is their first symptom of coronary artery disease. A heart attack may be severe enough to cause death or it may be silent. As many as one out of every five people have only mild symptoms or none at all, and the heart attack may only be discovered by routine electrocardiography done some time later.


Not everyone has the same heart attack symptoms when having a myocardial infarction.

Other common symptoms include:

Older people, especially women, often take longer than younger people to admit they are ill or to seek medical help

During the early hours of a heart attack, heart murmurs and other abnormal heart sounds may be heard through a stethoscope.

Causes and Risk Factors

A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is usually caused by a blood clot that blocks an artery of the heart. The artery has often already been narrowed by fatty deposits on its walls. These deposits can tear or break open, reducing the flow of blood and releasing substances that make the platelets of the blood sticky and more likely to form clots. Sometimes a clot forms inside the heart itself, then breaks away and gets stuck in an artery that feeds the heart. A spasm in one of these arteries can cause the blood flow to stop.


Because a heart attack (myocardial infarction) can be life threatening, men older than 35 or women older than 50 who have chest pain should be examined to see if they area having a heart attack. However, similar pain can be caused by pneumonia, a blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), pericarditis, a rib fracture, spasm of the esophagus, indigestion or chest muscle tenderness after injury or exertion. A heart attack can be confirmed within a few hours of its occurrence by:


Half the deaths from a heart attack occur in the first 3 or 4 hours after symptoms begin. It is crucial that symptoms of a heart attack be treated as a medical emergency. A person with these symptoms should be taken to the emergency department of a hospital in an ambulance with trained personnel.

The sooner that treatment of a heart attack begins, the better. Chewing an aspirin tablet after an ambulance has been called can help reduce the size of the blood clot. A beta-blocker may be given to slow the heart rate so the heart is not working as hard and to reduce the damage to the heart muscle. Often a person who is having a heart attack is given oxygen, which also helps heart tissue damage to be less.

People who may be having a heart attack are usually admitted to a hospital that has a cardiac care unit. Heart rhythm, blood pressure and the amount of oxygen in the blood are closely monitored so that heart damage can be assessed. Nurses in these units are specially trained to care for people with heart problems and to handle cardiac emergencies.

Drugs may be used to dissolve blood clots in the artery so that heart tissue can be saved. To be effective, these drugs must be given intravenously within six hours of the start of the symptoms of a heart attack. After six hours, most damage is permanent. (People who have bleeding conditions or severe high blood pressure and those who have had recent surgery or a stroke cannot be given these drugs.)

Instead of drug therapy, angioplasty may be performed immediately to clear the arteries. This approach is preferred as primary therapy in heart attacks. If the blockages are extensive, then coronary artery bypass surgery may be necessary.

Chances of surviving a heart attack can improve when an individual recognizes the symptoms early and seeks immediate medical attention. One out of every 10 people who have heart attacks, however, die within a year - usually within the first three or four months. Typically, these people continue to have chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure. Older people and smaller people tend to not do as well after a heart attack as younger people and larger people. This may be one reason why women tend to fare less well than men after a heart attack - they tend to be both older and smaller, as well as have other disorders. They also tend to wait longer after a heart attack before going to the hospital.

After a heart attack (myocardial infarction), a doctor may require additional tests or treatment, including:

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