Type 2 diabetics could add a decade to their lives by slimming down to a healthy weight and better controlling blood pressure and sugar levels, a study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Florida — who monitored patients aged 50 to 80 — said their findings should ‘motivate’ many to stick to treatment plans.
But they warned gains were much lower among older patients, underlining the need for early intervention.
About one in ten Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, estimates show, which is triggered when cells become resistant to insulin — a hormone which regulates the body’s blood sugar levels.
People who are obese and do not exercise often are most at risk of the condition, with sufferers facing going blind, losing a limb or entering a diabetic coma.
The above graph shows the gains in life expectancy for type 2 diabetics if they stick to their diet plans, according to a statistical model. People in the obese group also had high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high cholesterol levels
In the study — published Monday in JAMA Open Network — scientists monitored 421 adults who with a median age of 65 years old for nine months.
Patients had their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and boy mass index (BMI) checked during the study period.
Data was then fed into a statistical model — adjusted to the U.S. population — to estimate their life expectancy.
‘For individuals with very high levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI, controlling [these] can potentially increase life expectancy by more than ten years,’ the scientists led by Hamed Kianmehr, a PhD student at the university, wrote.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood to become too high.
It can cause symptoms like excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness. It can also increase your risk of getting serious problems with your eyes, heart and nerves.
It’s a lifelong condition that can affect your everyday life. You may need to change your diet, take medicines and have regular check-ups.
It’s caused by problems with a chemical in the body (hormone) called insulin. It’s often linked to being overweight or inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.
Obese women in their 60s who had type 2 diabetes and other major risk factors were estimated to have another 18 years of life left on average.
But for those who got down to a healthy weight, the estimate surged to 30 years.
The same trend was seen among men in this age group.
Obese men with other underlying conditions had a life expectancy of 15 years — but if their BMI fell to healthy levels this rose to 25 years.
‘Our estimated gain in life expectancy was mainly associated with potential reductions in cardiovascular diseases associated with weight loss,’ researchers wrote.
‘A lower BMI was associated with lower risks of heart failure, angina, and re-vascularization, which in turn was associated with a lower risk of mortality.’
Researchers found, however, that among older type 2 diabetics weight loss triggered less pronounced gains.
Obese women in their 70s who had type 2 diabetes and other major conditions had a 7-year life expectancy on average.
This rose to 15 years if they got down to a healthy weight — an of eight year gain.
Among obese men in their 70s, life expectancy was five and a half years, rising to 11 in those who had achieved a healthy weight — up five years.
‘The benefit associated with treatment goal achievement declined sharply as the patient aged,’ researchers wrote.
‘This finding emphasizes the importance of control at an earlier age.
‘It also highlights the potential need for a trade-off between life quality and treatment for elderly patients when the benefit of control is limited.’
Obese patients also had a blood pressure of 180 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), blood sugar level of 10 per cent and a cholesterol level of 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
But patients of a healthy weight had a blood pressure at 120mmHg, blood sugar level of seven per cent, and cholesterol level at 70mg/dL.
Normal blood pressure levels are 120mmHg or lower, while for blood sugar is is below seven per cent, and for cholesterol below 100mg/dL.