MONDAY, June 11, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A diagnosis of diabetes means losing an average of eight years from your expected life span, new research shows.
In addition, diabetics are more likely to develop heart disease sooner than non-diabetics, the study found.
"Having diabetes at age 50 years and over does not only represent a significant increase in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and mortality but also a very important loss in life expectancy and life expectancy free from cardiovascular disease," said lead author Dr. Oscar H. Franco, of the University Medical Center Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Unilever Corporate Research, Sharnbrook, England.
Most people with diabetes -- about 95 percent -- suffer from the obesity-linked type 2 form of the blood sugar illness. That means that "prevention of diabetes is a fundamental task facing today's society aiming to achieve populations living for longer and healthier," Franco said.
His team published its findings in the June 11 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the study, Franco's group collected data on more than 5,200 American men and women who participated in the ongoing Framingham Heart Study. These people were followed until they developed heart disease or died. In addition, the researchers noted whether they had diabetes.
According to the study, diabetic women had more than twice the risk of developing heart disease than non-diabetic women. In addition, women with diabetes who already had heart disease were more than twice as likely to die compared with non-diabetic women.
Among men, the researchers found that those with diabetes also had twice the risk of developing heart disease and faced a 1.7 times higher risk of dying after developing heart trouble, compared with non-diabetic men.
For those 50 and older, diabetic men lived an average of 7.5 years less than men without diabetes, and diabetic women lived an average of 8.2 years less. Moreover, life expectancy without heart disease still fell by 7.8 years in men and 8.4 years in women with diabetes compared with non-diabetics, Franco's group reported.
"Taking into consideration that treatment of diabetes and its complications accounts for at least 10 percent of health-care expenditure in many countries, effectively preventing diabetes will not only represent an increase in life expectancy and the number of years lived free from cardiovascular disease but may also represent important savings for health care, at least with respect to direct medical costs," Franco said.
One expert believes the study reflects the dangers posed by diabetes and the need for more efforts to prevent and control the disease.
"It's sobering to think about the number of years of life lost," said Dr. Larry Deeb, president for medicine and science at the American Diabetes Association. "We ought to be able to reduce the cardiovascular risk because we can manage diabetes better today, but we're not."
Deeb believes the new findings highlight the tragic results of not controlling the illness. "This is a powerful argument to people who have diabetes, that you have to control the diabetes," he said.
For more information on diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.