Study: Two-fold Higher Mortality from Cardiovascular Disease in Older People with Diabetes

October 2006: Diabetes is on the rise, likely to affect twice as many people worldwide in 2030 as today, and a serious global health problem, because, despite available treatments, most people with diabetes develop serious long-term health problems. One of these is cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in the US and other developed countries.

A new study by Joshua Barzilay (Kaiser Permanente of Georgia and Emory University) and colleagues, published in the international open-access medical journal PLoS Medicine, finds that older people with diabetes are much more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than their non-diabetic peers.

The researchers studied a randomly selected group of nearly 6000 individuals over 65, of whom about 9% were known to have diabetes and were using oral drugs or insulin injections to control their blood sugar. They followed the participants for an average of 11 years. During that period, over 40% of the individuals died, and approximately 50-60% of the deaths were attributable to cardiovascular causes.

Compared to those without diabetes, and after adjusting for many factors known to affect cardiovascular disease risk such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and cholesterol levels, participants with diabetes were found to be twice as likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The risk was particularly high for patients treated with insulin injections.

As Andre Pascal Kengner and Anushka Patel (from the University of Sydney) point out in an accompanying Perspective article, the finding that older adults with diabetes are at very high absolute risk of death from cardiovascular events makes it clear that strategies aimed at reducing those risks in elderly diabetic patients should be pursued aggressively.

Citation: Kronmal RA, Barzilay JI, Smith NL, Psaty BM, Kuller LH, et al. (2006) Mortality in pharmacologically treated older adults with diabetes: The cardiovascular health study 19892001. PLoS Med 3(10): e400. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030400

Citation: Kengne AP, Patel A (2006) How important is diabetes as a risk factor for cardiovascular and other diseases in older adults? PLoS Med 3(10): e424. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030424

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org

Source: Public Library of Science