For the first time in 20 years five common diabetes complications are on the decline. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rates of heart attack, stroke, end-stage kidney failure, lower-limb amputation and deaths from high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) have all decreased over the testing period.
Experts believe the decline is likely linked to the increase in access to health care and health care services.
Diabetes is currently the 7th leading cause of death in the United States according to the CDC, with approximately 26 million people living with the condition and another 79 million living with prediabetes.
Some races and ethnicities are affected more than others; Hispanics, for example, are 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites, according to the Office of Minority Health.
Hispanics are also more likely to be diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure and are more likely to die from diabetes compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts.
Not surprisingly, diabetes complications, such as end-stage kidney failure, also disproportionately affect Hispanics.
Access to care and lack of health insurance have long been barriers for this ethnicity.
“These findings show that we have come a long way in preventing complications and improving quality of life for people with diabetes,” said lead author Edward Gregg in a statement.
“While the declines in complications are good news, they are still high and will stay with us unless we can make substantial progress in preventing type 2 diabetes.”
The findings revealed that cardiovascular complications and deaths from high blood sugar each decreased by over 60 percent, rates of strokes and lower extremity amputations decreased by around 50 percent, and rates for end-stage kidney failure fell by 30 percent.
The most notable improvement was among individuals over the age of 75 where heart attack and stroke complications were reduced drastically.
The most common diabetes complications tend to be heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy, and amputation.
However, individuals may experience a number of other consequences such as an increased risk for skin infections, foot ulcers, difficult or impossible pregnancy, gastroparesis, and mental health issues, among others.
And while health care has now been extended to offer coverage to millions more people in the United States, researchers indicate improvements in diabetes education as well as risk factor control improvements are also reasons why a decline has been seen in diabetes complications.
Despite the good news regarding diabetes complications, the study revealed that one number isn’t going down–the number of people who are being diagnosed with this condition. Over the last two decades the number of people reporting diabetes has more than tripled.
The American Diabetes Association states almost 2 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed annually, and every year more than 200,000 people die of diabetes or diabetes complications.
Those hardest hit are Hispanics and the elderly; approximately 26.9 percent of individuals over the age of 65 have diabetes, and 11.8 percent of Hispanics can be diagnosed with the condition compared to 7.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Thankfully, both groups have seen improvements in their access to health care mostly as a result of the Affordable Care Act.