Diabetes raises the risk of sudden cardiac death in children and young adults

by Barbara Hewitt on December 8, 2017

Children and young adults with type 1 diabetes may have seven times the risk of sudden cardiac death than those without the condition, according to the preliminary findings of a new study.

Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital studied records on all young people in Denmark who were aged between one and 35 during the years 2000 to 2009 and between the age of 36 and 49 during 2007 to 2009.


Over the 10-year period, there were 14,294 deaths in the sample, and the team was able to discover the cause of death in each case from records of death and autopsies. Of those who died some 5% or 669 had diabetes and of these 70% or 471 had type 1 diabetes and 30% or 198 type 2 diabetes.

The researchers calculated that the rate of death from all causes over the 10 years in people aged one to 49 was 235 per 100,000 in those with diabetes, compared with 51 per 100,000 in those who did not have the disease.

They found that cardiac diseases were the leading cause of death in those with diabetes and that eight times more people with diabetes died of this cause than people without diabetes.

Sudden cardiac death, listed as the cause of death in 17% of those with diabetes, some 118 people, was found to be seven times more common in that group than in those without diabetes.

The team points out that because the study was confined to people living in Denmark, the findings may not apply to other countries, even western ones such as the UK and United States. The reason for this is not only because of demographic differences, but also because of differences in healthcare systems.

Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as heart attack, which is a condition that arises when the blood supply that nourishes the heart is suddenly blocked, often because of a blood clot.

The researchers suggest that the reason for the raised risk might be because diabetes causes abnormalities in blood vessels.

‘Although we have become better at helping people manage both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is still associated with increased risk of death, especially among young people,’ said study contributor Jesper Svane, a postgraduate medical research student at Copenhagen University.

Nevertheless, cardiovascular disease is the most common diabetes-related complication, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that intensive management of the risk factors results in reductions in early deaths.

‘In light of the results from this study, tight control and effective treatment of blood lipids, blood pressure, and blood glucose is also important among children and young persons with diabetes,’ added Svane.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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