Type 2 diabetes

Research finds type 2 diabetes takes a decade off life expectancy

by Barbara Hewitt on January 18, 2017

Developing type 2 diabetes before the age of 50 can knock up to a decade off normal life expectancy, but simple lifestyle changes can reduce the risk, a new study suggests.

The research carried out by a team at the University of Oxford in England suggests that a diagnosis in middle age means that people with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to die before the age of 75 than those without the condition.

Senior-CitizensThe research team looked at half a million adults in China aged 30 to 79 from five rural and five urban areas between 2004 and 2014 and found that a diagnosis in middle age means living eight years less than those without the condition in towns and cities, rising to 10 years for people in rural areas.

Most previous studies of diabetes have been in high income countries where individuals with diabetes are generally well managed, but this one looked at China as the prevalence of diabetes has quadrupled in recent decades, with an estimated 100 million adults now affected.

Because the increase in diabetes prevalence in China is only recent, the full eventual effect on mortality was unknown. Among the participants some 6% had diabetes with half being previously diagnosed and half detected by screening during the study.

The researchers estimated that the 25-year probability of death would be 69% among those diagnosed with diabetes at age 50 years compared with 38% among those without diabetes, corresponding to a loss of about nine years of life, 10 years in rural areas and eight years in urban areas.

The risk increased with increased time since diagnosis of diabetes. ‘As the prevalence of diabetes in young adults increases and the adult population grows, the annual number of deaths related to diabetes is likely to continue to increase, unless there is substantial improvement in prevention and management,’ said lead author professor Zhengming Chen of the University of Oxford.

‘In the UK patients are generally well managed thanks to the healthcare system, which is not the case in China, especially in rural areas. There is no need for them to be unnecessarily alarmed. But they must remember the importance of physical activity and a good diet. It is vital patients listen to their GP,’ he added.

The study also points out that type 2 diabetes raises the risk of dying from chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, infection and cancer of the liver, pancreas and breast.

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