• Open Access

Autonomic imbalance: prophet of doom or scope for hope?


A. I. Vinik MD PhD FCP MACP, Director, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Strelitz Diabetes Research Center and Neuroendocrine Unit, 855 W Brambleton Avenue, Norfolk, VA 23510, USA. E-mail: vinikai@evms.edu


Diabet. Med. 28, 643–651 (2011)


It has long been recognized that cardiac autonomic neuropathy increases morbidity and mortality in diabetes and may have greater predictive power than traditional risk factors for cardiovascular events. Significant morbidity and mortality can now be attributable to autonomic imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system regulation of cardiovascular function. New and emerging syndromes include orthostatic tachycardia, orthostatic bradycardia and an inability to use heart rate as a guide to exercise intensity because of the resting tachycardia. Recent studies have shown that autonomic imbalance may be a predictor of risk of sudden death with intensification of glycaemic control. This review examines an association of autonomic dysregulation and the role of inflammatory cytokines and adipocytokines that promote cardiovascular risk. In addition, conditions of autonomic imbalance associated with cardiovascular risk are discussed. Potential treatment for restoration of autonomic balance is outlined.