Diabetes Rates Increase Among Older Americans

The annual number of Americans older than 65 years who are newly diagnosed with diabetes increased by 23% between 1994 to 1995 and 2003 to 2004, according to a report in a recent issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

According to the article, the prevalence of diabetes mellitus is increasing, in part because of the aging population, but in younger people as well. The high rate of existing diabetes also contributes to a high rate of diabetes-related complications and premature death. While awareness of the importance of active monitoring and management of diabetes has become more widespread, adherence to recommended practices remains low.

Frank A. Sloan, PhD, and colleagues at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., analyzed Medicare program data for patients first diagnosed with diabetes during 1994 (33,164 patients), 1999 (31,722 patients) and 2003 (40,058 patients). This data was compared with that of two control groups consisting of individuals without the disease who were of similar race and ethnicity to those with diabetes. Death and complications of diabetes such as cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, ophthalmic, renal and lower extremity events were recorded.

Researchers noted that the annual incidence of diabetes increased by 23% between 1994 to 1995 and 2003 to 2004, and prevalence increased by 62%. After diagnosis, the death rate in patients having diabetes decreased by 8.3% when compared with those who were not diagnosed with the disease.

Most patients with diabetes experienced at least one complication within the next 6 years. For example, almost half had congestive heart failure.

“Complication rates among persons diagnosed as having diabetes generally increased or stayed the same compared with those in the control groups during 1994 to 2004, except for ophthalmic diseases associated with diabetes,” the authors wrote. “In some cases, most notably renal events, including the most serious complications, there were increases in prevalence in both the diabetes and control groups.”

The research highlighted the “overwhelming burden of diabetes,” and cited a near 90% prevalence of adverse outcomes, such as coronary heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

“The burden of financing and providing medical care for persons older than 65 in the United States having diagnosed diabetes is growing rapidly as a result of increased incidence and, especially, prevalence of diagnosed diabetes, decreased mortality and overall lack of improvement in rates of complications in persons having diagnosed diabetes,” the authors wrote.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Aging.

For more information:

  • Sloan FA, Bethel MA, Ruiz D Jr, Shea AH, Feinglos MN. The growing burden of diabetes mellitus in the U.S. elderly population. Arch Intern Med. 2008; 168:192-199.

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