04 July 2011

Study finds Type 1 diabetics' life span increases

Those with type 1 diabetes historically faced a shortened life expectancy. But those diagnosed since 1965 can expect a near normal life span, a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health study concludes.

The study led by Trevor J. Orchard, a professor of epidemiology, pediatrics and medicine, found that people diagnosed with type 1 between 1965 and 1980 had a life expectancy of 68.8 years. The general population's is about 73.

That marked a 15-year increase in life expectancy over the 53.4 life expectancy of those diagnosed between 1950 and 1964. Over that same period, the general population's life expectancy rose by less than a year.
The results were presented during the 71st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego, Calif.

Orchard said the findings surprised him and his research team. It also might surprise those with the disease who are often told to expect a shortened life span, especially if they do not take pains to control the disease. Its onset usually occurs in childhood.

Nearly 1 million Americans have type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is the hormone that allows blood glucose to enter cells to be used as energy. Type 1 usually is treated with insulin injections, dietary restrictions and regular monitoring of blood-glucose levels.

The Pitt study involved participants in the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications study — a long-term perspective of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes that began in 1986. Participants had to be diagnosed with diabetes between 1950 and 1980.

While mortality rates from type 1 diabetes have improved over the years, Orchard said, estimates of life expectancy were lacking, prompting his team's effort to estimate all-cause mortality and translate those results into life-expectancy rates.

He said the study should be used to provide insurance companies with more accurate assessments of life-expectancy rates for type 1, which in turn should help to reduce life insurance premiums.
"The vast majority of people with type 1 diabetes can look forward to a normal life expectancy. That's the big news here," Orchard said.

Source: The Seattle Times

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