Fewer patients with diabetes are dying prematurely from heart disease and stroke, mostly due to better medical care but also because people are taking better care of themselves, federal health experts said on Tuesday.
Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 23 percent drop in deaths from all causes among diabetes patients between 1997 and 2006, and said this drop in deaths went along with a drop in smoking, a tendency to exercise more, and better control of cholesterol and blood pressure.
“Taking care of your heart through healthy lifestyle choices is making a difference, but Americans continue to die from a disease that can be prevented,” Ann Albright, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, said in a statement. “Although the cardiovascular disease death rate for people with diabetes has dropped, it is still twice as high as for adults without diabetes.”
The American Diabetes Association estimates that nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes – most of them type-2 diabetes, which is linked with obesity, a poor diet, and a lack of exercise. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death and is a main cause of kidney failure, blindness, and amputation of feet and legs. Diabetes costs an estimated $174 billion annually, including $116 billion in direct medical costs, the CDC says.
The CDC’s Edward Gregg and colleagues looked at statistics on death rates from a series of surveys covering 250,000 adults. They found deaths from heart disease fell 40 percent among those with diabetes between 1997 and 2006. But they said this is not all good news for the health care system.
“Although our analyses indicate encouraging reduction in mortality and, indirectly, continued success in diabetes care, these findings have ironic implications for the future U.S. diabetes burden,” they wrote in their report, published in Diabetes Care.
If patients with diabetes are living longer, they’ll also need more years of testing for blood sugar; of checking to ensure their eyes, feet, and kidneys are healthy; and of taking drugs to control any health conditions.