Major Changes Could Reduce Diabetes Death Toll

American Diabetes Association warns 62 million could die in next 30 years

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SUNDAY, June 11, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The president of the American Diabetes Association is urging major changes to improve the health of Americans and curb an oncoming epidemic of diabetes.

Without these lifestyle changes, diabetes will soon take a huge toll on patients and the nation's health care system, Dr. Robert A. Rizza, the ADA's president of medicine and science, was to tell delegates Sunday at the organization's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Unless something is done to prevent it, diabetes will result in 35 million heart attacks, 13 million strokes, 6 million episodes of renal failure, 8 million instances of blindness or eye surgery, 2 million amputations and 62 million deaths, for a total of 121 million serious diabetes-related adverse events in the next 30 years," Rizza said in a prepared statement on his remarks.

A cure for diabetes is the ultimate goal and would save the United States approximately $6.6 trillion in the next 30 years on treating the disease. But, the ADA president said, that achievement isn't on the horizon.

"Although scientists are tantalizingly close to major scientific breakthroughs that could lead to a cure, of course, it is irresponsible to promise that a cure for diabetes will occur tomorrow," said Rizza. "Until a cure is found, the ideal would be for every patient to receive 'optimal' care for their diabetes."

Maintaining this standard of care would mean that each patient with diabetes would need an A1C (blood sugar level) of less than 7 percent, blood pressure readings of less than 130/80 mmHg, LDL cholesterol readings of less than 100 mg/dl and an HDL cholesterol reading of equal to or better than 40 or 50 mg/dl for men and women, respectively. Triglycerides should also be less than 150 mg/dl, and body mass index should be less than 25 (the threshold for overweight). The ADA also recommends that each diabetic take a baby aspirin each day to help prevent stroke, and that no diabetic should smoke.

"If our health care system were designed to implement this type of 'optimal care,' it too would have a dramatic impact on reducing heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, eye disease, amputation, and premature death," Rizza said.

Rizza also proposed the development of a daily "polypill" for diabetics to treat all of the conditions that cause complications of diabetes -- blood sugar, heart attack, stroke, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Such pills are estimated to cost about $100 per patient per year, according to Rizza. If these pills were made available to patients, compliance would increase and complications from diabetes would decrease by about 35 percent. Heart attack risk would be reduced by 50 percent, kidney failure by 4 percent, and blindness and eye surgery by 33 percent.

"If not stopped, the diabetes epidemic has the potential to overwhelm our health care system and to undermine our economy," said Rizza.

More information

To read more on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.

SOURCES: American Diabetes Association, news release, June 11, 2006

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