People With Diabetes Living Longer

On average, people with diabetes die younger than other people. But the difference is shrinking and depends to a large degree on blood sugar control. With good control, people can live just as long with diabetes as without.

This knowledge comes from a huge new Swedish study. Researchers followed over 2 million people from 1998–2011, an average of approximately 5 years each. Roughly 435,000 of them had diabetes. Over that time, 17.7% of the people with diabetes died, compared to 14.5% of the controls. The risk of heart or stroke death was 7.9% for people with diabetes and 6.1% of controls.

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Those numbers represent only a 15% greater death rate for people with diabetes. The excess deaths were much higher in younger people, people with worse blood sugar control, and people with kidney disease. People over 75 with Type 2 actually had a slightly lower risk of death during the study than people without diabetes their age.

The article appeared in the October 29 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The senior author was Dr. Marcus Lind of the University of Gothenburg.

“Detecting Type 2 diabetes early and achieving good risk-factor control from diagnosis and onward was associated with low mortality, close to that of the general population for many patients with Type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Lind told Medscape Medical News.

Lind said that the 15% greater risk of death within five years was a great improvement over past results. “Until around 2000, the excess mortality with Type 2 diabetes was reported to be roughly 100%,” meaning double the risk of dying in a given time period.

These better results may be due to better self-management, better diabetes treatments, unknown factors, or a combination of causes.

It’s important to note that the subjects were all Swedish. “Similar evaluations need to be performed in other countries to confirm that excess mortality is low,” said Dr. Lind, “since diabetes care, diet, and lifestyle, among other factors, may differ between countries.”

Different populations would also have different genes. For example, a large Canadian study found that south Asians with diabetes had slightly less risk of heart attack, stroke, and death than European Canadians with diabetes. Chinese Canadians had only half the risk of Europeans Canadians.

Other studies are also finding improved life expectancy with diabetes. As reported by Diane Fennell here, the death rate for diabetes in the United States decreased by 17% between 1969 and 2011. The death rate for all causes decreased by more than 40% in that time.

Please note, though, that diabetes death rates remain relatively high among younger people with Type 2. Younger people may have a more severe form of the disease, may tend to have other problems along with diabetes, or may not receive the same care as older people with the condition.

Younger people with diabetes also have more stress, studies show. Stress makes diabetes and most health problems worse. So if you are younger with Type 2, you face a challenge. Good treatment and good self-management are possible, though, and make a huge difference. Get your glucose and blood pressure under control, stay physically active, and learn to relax. We have a lot of tips on those things on our site, so have a look around.

Misbehaving blood sugar numbers can lead to the desire to overreact and overtreat, but there’s a better method for addressing the frustration. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more from former therapist Scott Coulter.