Diabetes is not kind to the body but can it kill you? After all, high sugars can cause blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart attacks & strokes (any of which might make you wish you were dead). Well, in a study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine , the authors reviewed the cause of death in 123,205 persons out of 820, 900 participants in 97 trials, and after excluding those w/baseline vascular disease & adjusting for age, sex, tobacco use, and body mass index, they concluded that diabetes more than doubled one's risk of death from vascular causes, eg heart attacks, strokes & peripheral vascular disease, compared to those without diabetes.
While the increase in vascular risk was expected (though perhaps not the extent), I was surprised to find that diabetes also increased all-cause mortality by 80% compared to those without diabetes. Furthermore, diabetics had a 25% greater risk of dying from liver, pancreas, ovary, colorectum, lung, bladder, and breast cancer compared to their non-diabetic brethen.
Even after adjusting for blood pressure, cholesterol, inflammation & kidney function, diabetics had a great chance of dying from kidney disease, liver disease & other digestive disorders, pneumonia & other infectious diseases, mental & nervous system disorders, intentional self-harm, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
After running through all the statistics, the authors concluded that a 50 year old man w/diabetes would live 6 years less than his counterpart without diabetes. So go find out your fasting glucose because every 18mg/dL above 100mg/dL was associated with 10% higher risk of death from any cause, eg all-cause mortality, the Holy Grail of outcome studies. Every 18mg/dL above 100mg/dL increased cancer deaths by 5%, vascular deaths by 13%, and other causes of death by 10%.
The take-home point? Do whatever you can to avoid developing diabetes. Change your eating habits & your level of physical activity. Get rid of that paunch. Work with your family physician so that you can live a long & fulfilling life.