People with type 1 diabetes are 25% less likely to die early now than they were in 1990, a new global tally finds, and the number of people who’ve lived into their senior years with the autoimmune illness keeps rising.

The new findings suggest that type 1 diabetes “is no longer a contributory factor in decreased life expectancy owing to improvements in medical care over the three decades,” said a team led by Yongze Li, of the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. People with type 1 disease must take insulin each day to remain healthy. About 5% of all diabetes cases are type 1.

If poorly controlled, the disease can take a toll on health, and in decades past, people with type 1 diabetes tended to live shorter lives.

The Chinese team looked at data from the Global Burden of Disease and Risk Factors Study 2019, to see if things had gotten better for patients.

They have: In 1990, the number of people who’d lived to age 65 or older worldwide with type 1 diabetes was estimated to be 1.3 million, but by 2019 it had risen to more than 3.7 million.

At the same time, death rates fell by 25%, from 4.7 per 100,000 population in 1990 to 3.5 in 2019.

These statistics occurred even as type 1 diabetes became more prevalent, according to the study published June 12 in the BMJ.

“Globally, the prevalence of type 1 diabetes at least tripled in every age group from 65 to 94 years, especially among men, while death rates decreased across all age groups, particularly among women and those younger than 79,” according to a journal news release.

But gains against diabetes weren’t seen everywhere. For example, the study found that death rates “fell 13 times faster in countries with a high sociodemographic index,” compared to poorer countries, where the decline in early deaths to people with type 1 diabetes is considered much lower.

Keeping blood sugar under control is key to improved outcomes. For example, a person with high blood sugar levels was at greater risk of disabling symptoms.

Still, the news was mostly good, the Chinese team said, but older people with diabetes may need better care.

“Our study also advocates for urgent attention to coping strategies for ageing populations and older people with type 1 diabetes, rational allocation of health resources and the provision of targeted guidelines,” they said.

More information

Find out more about the care of type 1 diabetes at the Mayo Clinic.

SOURCE: BMJ, June 12, 2024

Source: HealthDay

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