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Diabetes increases deaths among people 65 and older

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A new study involving tens of thousands of people 65 and older suggests that even among older people, diabetes substantially increases premature deaths, according to researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

The study, published in the online edition of Annals of Epidemiology, showed that among people 65 and older, the mortality rate was 10 per cent per year in people who had diabetes compared to 6 per cent per year for those without diabetes, according to Alain G. Bertoni, M.D., M.P.H, and his colleagues.

What's more, the situation is getting worse, as the epidemic of diabetes spreads among people 65 and older, he said.

"The main implication of our findings is that diabetes-related mortality may be expected to increase in relative importance compared to other causes of death in the elderly, given recent trends of increasing diabetes prevalence," said Bertoni, assistant professor of public health sciences and internal medicine.

The result was something of a surprise, since several other population studies had suggested that though diabetes caused "excess mortality" in younger people, diabetes was less deadly in the elderly. "This may have led some doctors or family members not to worry much about a grandmother's touch of sugar," Bertoni said.

"These new findings suggest that prevention of diabetes among the elderly should be a priority," Bertoni said. "The Diabetes Prevention Program has shown that diabetes in high-risk individuals can be prevented." He said the program, which involves modest weight loss and physical activity, demonstrated a 71 percent reduction in diabetes incidence among those age 60 and above compared to people who just continued their normal activities.

Bertoni's study was based on a 5 percent national sample of Medicare claims in 1994, and included 148,519 persons with diabetes, matched by age, gender and race with precisely the same number of people who did not have a
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Contact: Robert Conn
rconn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4587
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
24-May-2004


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