Early Type 1 Diabetes Shortens Women’s Lives by 18 Years, Swedish Study Finds

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By : Suvarna Sheth

Researchers in Sweden examined how the age at which men and women are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes relates to excess mortality and cardiovascular risk.

They found that women who developed Type 1 diabetes before the age of ten years deceased an average of nearly 18 years earlier than women who did not have diabetes, while men lost almost 14 years of life. The lives of patients diagnosed at age 26-30 years are shortened by an average of ten years.

“These are disappointing and previously unknown figures,” says Dr. Araz Rawshani, lead author of the study in a press release, “the study suggests that we must make an even greater effort to aggressively treat patients diagnosed at an early age to reduce the risk of complications and premature death,” he says.

The research is based on extensive material from the Swedish National Diabetes Registry which monitored 27,195 individuals with Type 1 diabetes for an average of ten years.

The group was compared with 135,178 controls from the general population who did not have diabetes and had the same distribution in gender, age, and county of residence.

While researchers already knew that Type 1 diabetes is associated with a lower life expectancy, it was unclear until now whether and how much gender and age at onset of illness affect both life expectancy and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

One of the highest increases in risk noted in the study involved heart attacks in women who developed Type 1 diabetes before the age of ten years. The risk for these women is 90 times higher than for controls without diabetes.

“The study opens up the potential for individualized care,” Rawshani indicates. “We know with certainty that if we maintain good blood sugar control in these patients, we can lower the risk of cardiovascular damage.”

He says this makes it important to carefully consider both evidence-based medications and modern technological aids for blood sugar measurements and insulin administration in patients diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at an early age.

At the same time, Rawshani says the study should also be viewed in the light of the tremendous progress that has been made in the past few decades:

Management of Type 1 diabetes is highly sophisticated today, with modern tools for glucose monitoring, delivery of insulin and management of cardiovascular risk factors.

The study was published in the British medical journal, The Lancet.