Death Rate Drops Among Americans With Diabetes

By David Beasley
ATLANTA, May 22 (Reuters) – A 40 percent decline in the  death rate of diabetic American adults from heart disease and  strokes is a sign that patients are taking better care of  themselves and receiving improved treatment, according to a  government study released on Tuesday.
While the drop in death rates from cardiovascular disease  was the most dramatic, overall death rates among diabetic adults  dropped 23 percent from 1997 to 2006, according to the study by  researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
“Diabetes leads to many complications and shorter life  spans,” Edward Gregg, the study’s lead author and chief of  epidemiology and statistics in CDC’s Division of Diabetes  Translation, told Reuters on Tuesday.
“The fact that we found substantially lower death rates in  both men and women was very encouraging,” he said.
Diabetics are less likely to smoke than in the past and more  likely to be physically active, the CDC said, although it noted  that obesity levels among diabetics continues to rise. Better  control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol may also  have contributed to the decline in death rates among diabetics,  it said.
“When you see an effect on mortality like this, it’s not due  to one factor, it’s really all those factors,” said Gregg.
The study examined data from 250,000 patients.
Despite the significant decline in diabetic deaths from  cardiovascular disease, the rate is still twice as high as those  without the disease, the CDC said.
On average, diabetes diagnosed in middle age reduces a  patient’s life expectancy by 10 years, although the gap likely  will narrow as diabetics live longer, said Gregg.
An estimated 25.8 million people in the United States have  diabetes, which is marked by high levels of glucose in the  blood, the CDC said. The number of people with diabetes  continues to increase, said Gregg.
Obesity is a major cause of the increase in Type 2 diabetes,  which is most common in adults, he said.
“There’s still a long way to go,” said Gregg. “The fact that  Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle intervention  means that we really need to do more.”