Although death (mortality) rates for patients with diabetes type 1 are falling, they are still seven times higher than in the rest of the population, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh wrote in the medical journal Diabetes Care. The authors wrote that there is still concern for African-Americans and female patients. Females with Type 1 are 13 more likely to die prematurely than other females without diabetes. 24% of Caucasians die early because of diabetes type 1 long-term complications, compared to 50.6% of African-Americans.

Senior author, Dr. Trevor Orchard, said:

    “It’s unclear why, for both women and African Americans, type 1 diabetes has such a major effect compared to the general population. This greater effect of diabetes for women is not seen as strongly in studies in other parts of the world. One thing that is clear is that we need to pay special attention to their care and treatment and continue to investigate why they might be disproportionately impacted by the long-term consequences of this disease.”

In Allegheny County, PA, mortality rates among individuals with type 1 diabetes were 9.3 higher than the general population between 1965 and 1969. This has dropped to 5.6 times higher for those diagnosed between 1975 and 1979.

Lead author, Dr. Aaron Secrest, said:

    “It looks like the main improvement in those most recently diagnosed is related to dramatically reducing mortality in the first five years after diagnosis. We think it’s probably a result of better management and awareness of diabetes control, leading to providers and patients doing a better job of monitoring for acute complications.”

Enormous advances and improvements in treatment and care that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s are responsible for most of the reduction in mortality, the authors wrote. Examples include A1C testing, new blood pressure drugs (which also protect the kidneys), and blood glucose self-monitoring.

Good blood sugar control, as well as blood pressure significantly reduce the risk of chronic (long-term) complications.

The researchers had examined data on patients in Allegheny County who had been diagnosed with diabetes type 1 between 1965 and 1979. At the start of this study, patients had had diabetes for between 28 and 43 years.

Diabetes type 1 is known as an autoimmune disease. The individual’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. People tend to get diabetes type 1 at a much earlier age than type 2. Unlike type 2, diabetes type 1 is not the result of lifestyle (e.g. being overweight).

Source: Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association

Written by Christian Nordqvist