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Diabetes Deaths Drop Sharply in US

Update Date: May 27, 2012 09:31 PM EDT

People with diabetes are living longer, according to US health officials.

In the decade leading up to 2006, death rates for people with diabetes declined 23% while deaths from heart disease fell 40%, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found.

The researchers report that although American adults with diabetes are still more likely to die younger than those without diabetes, the gap is narrowing.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the 1997-2004 National Health Interview Survey involving nearly 250,000 adults who were linked to the National Death Index.

They suggest improved treatment for cardiovascular disease, better management of diabetes, and healthier lifestyles have contributed to the death rate decline among people with diabetes.

The team found people with diabetes were less likely to smoke and more likely to be physically active than in the past.

Improved control of blood pressure and cholesterol may also have played a part in improving health, although obesity levels are still rising among diabetics.

"Taking care of your heart through healthy lifestyle choices is making a difference, but Americans continue to die from a disease that can be prevented," said Ann Albright, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.

"Although the cardiovascular disease death rate for people with diabetes has dropped, it is still twice as high as for adults without diabetes."

However, because deaths are falling, and rates of newly diagnosed cases are still increasing, scientists expect the number of people with diabetes will continue rising.

Diabetes prevalence has tripled in the past three decades, primarily due to increases in Type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to a surge in obesity and inactivity, and older age.

The CDC estimates there are 25.8 million Americans living with diabetes today, and 7 million of them don't know it.

The study was published online this month in the journal Diabetes Care.

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