(Bloomberg) — Improved preventive care for diabetes in the United States may have cut the likelihood that the condition will lead to complications such as heart attacks and strokes, government researchers report.
But the researchers note that the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes continues to rise.
Diagnosed diabetes cases tripled to 20.7 million in 2010, from 6.5 million in 1990, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Because of the increase in the number of diagnosed cases, the total number of diabetes complication cases increased, even though the likelihood that someone diagnosed with diabetes would suffer a complication fell, according to Linda Geiss, one of the study authors.
“We need to make some progress in preventing Type 2 diabetes in order to help decrease these numbers,” Geiss, head of diabetes surveillance at the CDC in Atlanta, said in a telephone interview.
Diabetes, which is caused when the body doesn’t use insulin properly or doesn’t make the hormone, is the seventh-leading cause of death in the U.S. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that helps the body control blood sugar. Type 2 accounts for 90 percent to 95 percent of U.S. cases.
About 79 million Americans are at risk for developing diabetes, according to the CDC. Diabetes and the associated complications cost $176 billion in medical expenses each year.
But the CDC researchers found the overall rate of heart attack among all known diabetics declined 68 percent between 1990 and 2010. The stroke rate fell 53 percent, and the amputation rate fell 51 percent.
Rates of deaths from high blood sugar and end-stage kidney failure also fell during the 20 years.
The largest decline in many of the complications was seen in those ages 75 and older.
Researchers used data from the National Health Interview Survey, the National Hospital Discharge Survey, the U.S. Renal Data System and Vital Statistics to look at diabetes-related complications in the U.S. during the 20 years.