Diabetes and lifespan
Type 2 diabetes typically shows up later in life, although the incidence in younger people is increasing. The disease, which is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar), or hyperglycemia, usually results from a combination of unhealthy lifestyle habits, obesity, and genes. Over time, untreated hyperglycemia can lead to serious, life-threatening complications. Type 2 diabetes also puts you at risk for certain health conditions that can reduce your life expectancy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the 7th most common cause of death in the United States. However, there is no defining statistic to tell you how long you’ll live with type 2 diabetes. The better you have your diabetes under control, the lower your risk for developing associated conditions that may shorten your lifespan.
The top cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes is cardiovascular disease. This is due to the fact that high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, and also because people with type 2 diabetes often have high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease.
When you have type 2 diabetes, there are many factors that can increase your risk of complications, and these complications can impact your life expectancy. They include:
High blood sugar levels: Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels affect many organs and contribute to the development of complications.
High blood pressure: According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 71 percent of people with diabetes have high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of kidney disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and other complications.
Lipid disorders: According to the ADA, 65 percent of those with diabetes have high low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad, cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of vessel disease. High triglyceride levels and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good, cholesterol levels are also common in diabetes, which increases risk of complications as well.
Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of many complications associated with diabetes, as well as increasing the risk of overall mortality from other diseases, such as cancer.
Because of the above risk factors, diabetes increases the risk of developing certain complications, which also affect your life expectancy.
Diabetes is the cause of 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure in the United States, according to the ADA. Kidney disease appears to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Both of these diseases can decrease life expectancy.
Chronically high blood sugar levels can damage nerves. If this damage occurs in the autonomic nerves that control the involuntary functions of your body, such as heart rate and blood pressure, you can be at risk for complications that can reduce life expectancy.
Damage to the peripheral nerves can lead to problem with feeling in the feet. This is turn can lead to issues with healing, increasing the risk of infections and amputations. Infections are harder to clear with high blood sugars, and infections that spread can potentially be fatal.
Gum disease is more prevalent in adults with type 2 diabetes than in other adults.
This complication of diabetes:
- decreases circulation
- increases plaque from high blood sugar levels
- decreases saliva production, causing dry mouth
- decreases protective collagen in the gums
Severe cases of gum disease can lead to heart problems, which in turn affect life expectancy. Your best defense against gum disease is through proper oral care, as well as regular dental exams.
Although rare in type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar levels without adequate insulin can cause ketone levels to build up in the blood, causing a potentially deadly condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.
Ensuring a long life with diabetes
Type 2 diabetes requires constant management. First, it’s important to check your blood sugar regularly to make sure it’s not too high. Taking the right doses of medication is necessary in helping to keep glucose levels normal. Lifestyle habits, such as a healthy diet and exercise, can also help regulate blood glucose. The better your diabetes is managed, the longer life you’ll likely enjoy.