Study: Better Medical Care and Healthier Lifestyles Helping Diabetics

A new study adds weight to what so many medical professionals recommend for people with diabetes: healthier lifestyle choices and managing their disease can help them live longer.

In fact, heart disease and stroke deaths for people with diabetes dropped by 40 percent from 1997 to 2006, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. Deaths from all causes declined by 23 percent, according to the study published in the journal Diabetes Care.

Researchers attribute the statistics to better medical treatment for heart disease, better diabetes management and changes diabetic patients make to live a healthier lifestyle, such as exercising more and not smoking, according to a press release from the CDC.

“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,” said Ann Albright, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “Although the cardiovascular disease rate for people with diabetes has dropped, it is still twice as high as for adults without diabetes.”

Nationwide, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in 2009, according to federal health statistics. It is also the leading cause of new cases of kidney failure, blindness among adults younger than 75 and amputation of feet and legs not related to injury, the CDC press release states.

But diabetic patients can reduce their chance of developing these serious complications by controlling their levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Federal health officials expect the number of people with diabetes to increase as people with the disease live longer and the rate of new cases increases. Of the estimated 25.8 million people living with diabetes, roughly 7 million do not know they have the disease.

“Diabetes carries significant personal and financial costs for individuals, their families and the health care systems that treat them,” said Edward W. Gregg, lead author of the study. “As the number of people with diabetes increases, it will be more important than ever to manage the disease to reduce complications and premature deaths.”

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