Great News for People With Type 1 Diabetes

Life Expectancy for Type 1 Diabetes Goes Up

| Aug 21, 2011

For people with type 1 diabetes, having the "bad" variety of the disease comes with some issues. You're constantly managing your blood sugars, warding off complications, and explaining your situation to others. But how about some good news for a change? Researchers now say that people with type 1 live nearly as long as people without diabetes!

That's right: According to a study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, the estimated life expectancy for type 1s diagnosed from 1965 to 1980 is 68.8 years. The average nondiabetic life expectancy is 72.4 years -- a bit more than three years' difference.

But there's more. Type 1s diagnosed from 1950 to 1964 have an average estimated life expectancy of only 53.4 years. That means that treatment advances in recent years have added more than 15 years to the life of an average person with type 1!

The study doesn't address the projected life expectancy of those diagnosed after 1980. However, given the fact that the landmark Diabetes Control and Complications Trial didn't even finish until 1993, one can only expect that type 1 lifespans have lengthened even further.

It's important to note that the ages reported are estimates. The researchers used information from the Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications study, a lengthy project begun 1986, to extrapolate the figures.

"Type 1 diabetes mortality rates have decreased over time, but formal life expectancy estimates for those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United States are lacking," said lead researcher Trevor J. Orchard. "Therefore, we estimated the all-cause mortality experience and life expectancy of the EDC study cohort."

This line from the researchers' abstract sums things up nicely: "Life expectancy for this Pittsburgh, hospital-based, childhood-onset (type 1 diabetes) population has improved dramatically."

Regardless of our age or challenges, let's all cheer for that.



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Posted by Anonymous on 21 August 2011

What is the quality of life for the extra 15 years? Sounds great on paper but like most headlines, it's missing all the facts (IMO). To me, this is just a headline to stem people's frustrations with the current pace of bedside results and to minimize the effects of type 1 diabetes.

Posted by diabeteschoices on 22 August 2011

The introduction to this story is unfortunate. Referring to type 1 diabetes as the 'bad variety of the disease' implies that type 2 diabetes is 'less bad'. This isn't the case. Many people with type 2 also have to monitor their blood sugar, ward off complications and explain their situation to others.

Posted by randeg1 on 22 August 2011

Thank you for this good news that Type 1 diabetics are living as long as the non-diabetics. This good news is a long time coming but it is worth the wait. I knew all along the diabetics will pull through because they work so hard at taking good care of themselves. I think sometimes I even feel it is a blessing in disguise because we are led down the healthy path of moving more and eating healthy. Evelyn Guzman

Posted by chanson3633 on 23 August 2011

I am offended at the description of Type 1 as the "bad" variety of the disease. I can't think of any diseases that are "good." What's the point of using that word? Type 1 since 1976.

Posted by Anonymous on 23 August 2011

Hey, that means I am well passed my use-by-date. I was diagnosed in 1961, now I'm 68, & I think in reasonable good health, I think this is so dependent on the individual person & genes, see the Joslin study of long time T1s. Not to say that all the treatment advances aren't a big help.

Posted by goozer on 23 August 2011

I agree with the above comments about "bad" & "good" diabetes. I would also like to say that I was diagnosed when I was 7 in 1948 and still have my toes, kidneys and still drive. I am one of of the lucky ones who doesn't fit into the statistics.

Posted by Trekker on 23 August 2011

Note that the bad in "bad" varity is in quotes. Sadly that term is still used today.
There are a very large number of Type 1's who have lived well beyond the "expected" lifespan. Even Elizabeth Evans Hughes, who was one of the first to receive insulin from Dr. Banting himself, lived an active life to the age of 74. She also bore 3 children and traveled the world. An amazing woman.

Posted by cde on 24 August 2011

I will assume that the "new" (but far less than normal) life expectancies for those with DM1 apply to those who follow the "recommended" 7% A1c guideline and maintain the frequent levels of hyperglycemia associated inevitably with those kinds of exaggerated A1c levels and the dietary methods needed to maintain them.

Logically speaking, without the presence of chronic hyperglycemia, the body should be able to proceed as a very nearly "normal" body, with "normal" life expectancies.

Because self-management is difficult, time-consuming, expensive, frustrating, depressing, etc., some persons with DM simply say, "I am going to die anyway, so I may as well simply not attend to diet, medications, exercise and die happy (though younger)."

DM1 and DM2 can certainly be used as implements of suicide, and indeed, in my experience, they often are used as indirect or unobtrusive paths to embracing premature death. I wonder what influence this tendency (if generalized) may have on the differential life "expectancies."

Dr. Stan De Loach
México, Distrito Federal

Posted by Anonymous on 24 August 2011

I also don't like how type 1 is referred to as the bad type. type 1 diabetes occurs without reason, as opposed to type 2 which occurs usually because of poor diet/health to start. maybe though it's referred to as the bad type because nothing can be done to change it where type 2 diabetics can adjust their diet and excercise and can get rid of it.

Posted by Anonymous on 24 August 2011

I have had Type 1 diabetes since 1959. I always planned to live a normal life span, and so far so good. No kidney problems, no loss of sensation or neuropathy problems. I also live a very normal lifestyle, travel, and have fun!

Posted by Rick on 25 August 2011

i understand they're some type 1s who live long relatively healthy lives without complications. they are the exception not the rule. they are very lucky. it's not that the rest of us aren't trying our best to manage this disease. as far as saying that type 1s live as long as "normal" people, that is ridiculous. as a type 1 since 1966, and now at the age of 63, i fully expect to be around five more years and hopefully longer. the difference is i am legally blind, have charcot foot in both feet, which is shifting of the bones which can progress to amputation, digestive problems, neuropathy in my hands and feet and am on nine prescriptions. to say that my life expectancy is the same as a "normal" person is asinine. one last thought. they're are around one million type 1s in the united states. how much time and effort are they going to put into curing this disease which so few have while at the same time companies are making billions off of in supplies, pumps, surgeris, etc? diabetes has over 46 years, taken me apart, piece by piece. the quatily of life leaves much to be desired. am i feeling sorry for myself? maybe a little. that doesn't dispute the facts i have given.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 August 2011

I was in the DCCT, I'm not a doctor but the facts as I know them are that on average the better blood sugar control you have the lower the complications, it takes work but nothing comes easy. Nutrition, exercise, lots of finger pricks, and paying attention to your body. It's definitely doable however I realize it's harder on some than others.

Posted by Rick on 30 August 2011

your exactly right. it is doable. unfortunately, when i was diagnosed there were no meters, pumps, etc. i found out what my blood sugar was every three months when i saw my doctor. treatment has improved by leaps and bounds. my point is when someone says they have had diabetes for fifty or sixty years that means they were very lucky. very lucky. i think the public thinks that diabetes is some benighn condition and all you have to do is not eat candy. that perception hasn't changed in fifty years. some aren't so lucky to slip through the cracks and avoid complications. there are no telethons for diabetes. i don't care about myself. i'm 63 years old and i have a loving family. but my heart breaks when i see a ten year old kid with an insulin pump. what a cross to bear at that age! people just don't know enough about the disease and the 24/7 battle to control. and it's a shame!

Posted by Anonymous on 11 September 2011

I am 67, diagnosed at age 15 in 1962. I'm still looking for a cure and Dr. Faustman at Harvard and U of Mass Hospital has me excited. Have you volunteered and/or contributed to her research? I found this article very helpful in making financial decisions. Since my expected lifespan is shortened, I need to be in more conservative investments. And I better stop procrastinating making out my will and durable power of attorney forms!

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