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Fewer Strokes and Heart Attacks for Diabetics

Kimberly Love

Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. As of 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), slightly over 8 percent of the population has diabetes, and nearly 2 million new cases are diagnosed each year in people over the age of 20. However, in the midst of this storm of bad news, there is a silver lining. Early diagnosis and effective treatment have caused the rate of other maladies related to diabetes to decline. The last 20 years have seen a 60 percent reduction in the rate of strokes and heart attacks suffered by diabetics according to new research. Diabetes-related kidney failure and amputations have also been drastically reduced in that same period says the CDC’s recent study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The increase in obesity in the U.S. has led to an increase in the number of diabetics. Diabetes causes sugar to build up in the blood, which tends to lead to a narrowing of the blood vessels. This increases the odds for cardiac problems or stroke.

Nearly one in 10 Americans are diabetic. It is now the seventh highest cause of death in the U.S. Obese individuals are already prone to heart attacks and strokes, but diabetes makes their susceptibility even greater. However, research in the 1990s proved that diabetics were able to control their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar with better blood monitors and earlier treatment thanks to expanded coverage by insurance companies. This resulted in fewer leg and foot amputations, a reduction in vision-related problems and a decrease in heart attacks and strokes. More diabetics are being diagnosed sooner with less severe forms of the disease.

The number of diabetics who suffered heart attacks dropped nearly 70 percent going from 141 per 10,000 patients to about 45. Strokes also declined to nearly 50 per 10,000 diabetics. These decreases were also noted in non-diabetics, but the numbers were not as impressive. Kidney failures decreased by nearly 30 percent except for older diabetics, which could mean that diabetics are living long enough these days to develop kidney disease. While the rates of amputations declined, the number of patients requiring amputations increased due to the greater number of people with the disease. The rate of deaths as a result of high blood sugar declined by 64 percent. Increased awareness and better treatment should continue to decrease these figures in the future.

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