Diabetes complicates everything.
Nearly four times as many Americans may die of diabetes as indicated on death certificates, a rate that would bump the disease up from the seventh-leading cause of death to No. 3, according to estimates in a recent study.
Researchers and advocates say that more-precise figures are important as they strengthen the argument that more should be done to prevent and treat diabetes, which affects the way sugar is metabolized in the body.
“We argue diabetes is responsible for 12 percent of deaths in the U.S., rather than 3.3 percent that death certificates indicate,” lead study author Andrew Stokes of the Boston University School of Public Health said in an interview.
About 29 million Americans have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are two forms of the disease: Type 1, in which the pancreas makes insufficient insulin, and the more common Type 2, in which the body has difficulty producing and using insulin.
Using findings from two large national surveys, the study looked mainly at A1C levels (average blood sugar over two to three months) and patient-reported diabetes. In the latest study, researchers compared death rates of diabetics who had participated in these surveys to information on their death certificates.
The authors also found that diabetics had a 90 percent higher mortality rate over a five-year period than nondiabetics. This held true when controlling for age, smoking, race and other factors.