Living Longer with Type 2 Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to life-threatening complications. However, with the right management strategies, many people with type 2 diabetes can expect to live as long as those without the disease. After diagnosis, many diabetics worry about their life expectancy. How quickly diabetes was diagnosed, the progress of diabetic complications, and whether one has other existing conditions will all contribute to life expectancy, regardless of whether the person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

People with type 1 diabetes have traditionally lived shorter lives, with a life expectancy that has been reduced by more than 20 years. However, recent improvements in diabetes care indicate that people with type 1 diabetes are now living significantly longer. Statistics are based on historical figures of times when people with type 1 diabetes were not receiving the same level of care as today. People with type 1 diabetes, in most cases, develop diabetes at a younger age than people with type 2 diabetes, so they usually spend a longer period of their lives living with the disease. Good news for those with type 1 diabetes: they are known to live with this condition for more than 85 years.

Recent studies on life expectancy show a significant improvement in the life expectancy rates of people with type 1 diabetes born in the late 20th century. In comparison, people with type 2 diabetes develop the condition more slowly and are usually diagnosed later in life. A team led by Dr. Adrian Heald sought to quantify the average reduction in life expectancy associated with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, respectively, among patients using more recent data. Using data from the Swedish National Diabetes Registry, researchers identified 214,278 patients with type 2 diabetes but without cardiovascular disease (mean age at diagnosis 62 years) and these patients were matched by age, sex and country of residence with 1,363,612 healthy controls. The analysis found that the average person with type 1 diabetes was 42.8 years old and had a life expectancy as of now of 32.6 years.

By comparison, people of the same age without diabetes were expected to live 40.2 years from now. For type 2 diabetes, the average patient was 65.4 years old and had a life expectancy as of now of 18.6 years. In comparison, patients of the same age without diabetes were expected to live within 20.3 years. This is due to the fact that high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, and also because people with type 2 diabetes often have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease. Estimating the impact of diabetes on longevity, researchers determined that a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes at approximately 15 years of age led to a loss of approximately 12 years of life. Patients with type 2 DM have a longer life expectancy than patients with type 1 DM and the overall life expectancy with diabetes is equal to that of the non-diabetic population. Unlike aggressive therapy in these younger patients, new research suggests reevaluating treatment goals and aggressive interventions in people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after 80 years of age.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, type 2 diabetes develops due to a combination of unhealthy lifestyle habits, genetics and obesity. Today, people with type 2 diabetes are diagnosed early in the development of diabetes which can help improve long-term life expectancy when combined with good control over their condition.

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