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New Data on the Seriousness of Diabetes

I may be the most positive person about living healthy in spite of diabetes you’ll ever find, and I never try to scare my patients by constantly talking about diabetes complications. That said, I do think I have a professional responsibility to make sure people with diabetes understand how serious diabetes can become without day to day management. A study published this week, led by a researcher from the Boston University School of Public Health, sheds much needed light on an issue that has consistently downplayed the seriousness of diabetes year after year. And, it puts diabetes in its proper place as a threat to your health.

7th leading cause of death

You may be aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists diabetes as the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S., behind (in order) heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. This ranking for diabetes usually represents year-to-year about 3.5% of all U.S. deaths, compared to 24% for heart disease and 22.5% for cancer. But, it’s been a well-known “secret” that this data taken from death certificates may under-represent the seriousness of diabetes because diabetes is often not mentioned, even as a contributing condition, on death certificates.

3rd leading cause of death

The researchers at Boston U. took information instead from almost 300,000 participants in long term, prospective health studies. They found that diabetes was a legitimate cause of death in almost 12% of the deaths occurring among participants aged 30 to 84 over a 14 year period from 1997 to 2011, and among obese subjects the rate was almost 20%. The study suggests, therefore, that diabetes could be (should be) considered as the 3rd leading cause of death each year in the U.S. population.

The “official” status of diabetes as a cause of death won’t change, but I bring this story forward simply because too many people don’t fully understand that diabetes is deadly serious. And, along those same lines, fail to understand how important diabetes self-management is to long term health.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.