Due to our stressful and sedentary lifestyles, metabolic disorders like Type 2 Diabetes have become widespread. Further, due to diabetes being so universally pervasive, we often forget that it is a condition that can severely affect an individual’s health and shorten their lifespan. So what’s the connection between diabetes & life expectancy? Is there any way to avoid diabetes complications and lengthen your lifespan? Read on to know more.
Type 2 Diabetes and Life Expectancy
Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic condition that affects your overall health. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels in diabetes can decrease the elasticity of your artery walls, which causes them to become narrow and stiff. This can restrict blood flow to your organs and lead to organ failure, which can turn fatal.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that diabetes caused around 1.5 million deaths in 2019, making it the ninth leading cause of death that year. Most diabetes-related deaths are due to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, infections, liver disease, etc.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India has about 74.2 million adults (between the ages of 20 to 79 years) living with diabetes in 2021, compared to 61.3 million adults in 2011. In India, diabetes has caused 9,83,203 deaths in 2011 and 6,47,831 deaths in 2021. From these statistics, we can infer that although the number of diabetes cases has increased from 2011 to 2021, the diabetes mortality rate has decreased in the same period. This decrease can be attributed to increased awareness and improved medical assistance and treatment for the condition.
Previously, studies have observed that the average life expectancy of a Type 2 Diabetic can be reduced by up to 10 years compared to healthy individuals. However, the average life expectancy of an individual with Type 2 Diabetes can vary based on various factors, like:
- The age at which you were diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. If you develop diabetes at a younger age, it makes you more likely to develop the related complication, shortening your lifespan.
- Your adherence to the treatment regimen. The better you are at following your treatment plan and controlling your blood sugar levels, the more likely you are to live a long and healthy life.
- The availability of quality medical care. Having access to good healthcare services can help detect any diabetes-related complications early so that you can get immediate and appropriate treatment. This can significantly improve your life expectancy.
What Risk Factors Can Affect Life Expectancy in Diabetics?
Several factors can affect your life expectancy when you have Type 2 Diabetes. The following are some of the major risk factors for complications and mortality in diabetics.
High blood pressure
High blood sugar levels can damage your arteries, putting you at a heightened risk of developing high blood pressure or hypertension. Having Type 2 Diabetes and uncontrolled hypertension can lead to further blood vessel damage, disturbances in vision, kidney failure, heart attack, etc.
Type 2 Diabetes can damage the cells in the inner lining of your blood vessels. If cholesterol accumulates in the damaged blood vessels, it can cause your arteries to harden and narrow. This can lead to reduced blood flow to vital organs, organ damage, and increased blood pressure.
Being overweight or obese can increase insulin resistance in your body, which can worsen your blood glucose control. Obesity also increases your chances of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, osteoarthritis, etc.
The nicotine in cigarettes can make insulin less effective. Smoking can worsen your glycemic control and make it harder for you to manage your condition. This can make you more likely to develop diabetic complications like cardiovascular disease and neuropathy. Smoking can also heighten your risk of developing cancer.
Having other health conditions like kidney disease or failure, liver disorders, infections, mental health disorders, insomnia, etc. along with diabetes can worsen your health and quality of life, and can likely lower your lifespan.
Type 2 Diabetes can hinder your cells’ ability to heal, lower your immunity, disrupt your metabolism, and adversely affect your mental health, all of which can shorten your life expectancy.
What Complications Can Affect Life Expectancy in Diabetics?
Untreated diabetes and high blood sugar levels can cause several microvascular and macrovascular complications that can adversely affect your health.
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD): Having diabetes increases your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke. This is because high blood sugar levels damage your arteries and cause them to become stiff and narrow. This can cut off blood supply to heart tissue (leading to a heart attack) or cause your heart to work harder to pump blood (leading to heart failure).
- Diabetic Nephropathy: Diabetes is the foremost cause of kidney disease. Your kidney has a network of small and delicate blood vessels in it that aid in blood filtration. High blood sugar levels damage these arteries, arterioles, and capillaries, which hinders your kidney’s functioning. Extensive blood vessel damage can lead to end-stage renal failure, which could necessitate a kidney transplant or dialysis.
Other complications like diabetic foot and recurrent infections can also lead to hospitalisation or death.
- Hypoglycaemia: Extremely low blood sugar levels or severe hypoglycaemia can be dangerous. Your body needs glucose to function, as it is a primary source of energy. When you have low blood glucose levels, your cells and tissues do not receive enough energy to carry out their functions. When your brain is deprived of energy, it can lead to severe headaches, seizures, coma, or brain death. Severe hypoglycaemia can sometimes be fatal.
- Diabetic Ketoacidosis: When your body produces very little insulin, it is unable to use the glucose present in your blood for fuel. So it begins to break down fat stored in the liver, which leads to the release of acidic substances called ketones. Ketones change the pH of your blood and make it acidic. This condition is called diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA. DKA is dangerous and can cause multiple organ failure due to the change in blood pH. If left untreated, DKA can be fatal.
Tips for Better Life Expectancy
Though Type 2 Diabetes is a serious condition, it is not a death sentence. Managing your condition effectively can help you live just as long as someone without diabetes. Follow the below recommendations to live a long and healthy life with Type 2 Diabetes.
1.Eat a Diabetic-Friendly Diet
Diet is one of the most important factors in blood sugar control. A well-balanced diet that is rich in fibre, protein, complex carbohydrates, and low glycemic index (GI) foods can help you manage your diabetes effectively.
Regular physical activity can help your body use up the extra glucose in your body. It can also help you lose weight, which helps improve insulin sensitivity in your tissues.
Exercise also has several other health benefits like lowering your blood pressure, relieving stress, improving sleep quality, etc. The American Diabetes Association (ADA), recommends exercising for at least 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week.
3.Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese is one of the most important contributing factors to Type 2 Diabetes. Having extra fat in your body, especially around your abdomen, can cause your cells and tissues to become insulin resistant. It means that your cells are unable to use insulin effectively, which leads to glucose remaining in your blood as it is unable to enter your cells.
Research has shown that losing weight can help improve insulin sensitivity in your body, which can help you manage your condition better.
4.Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels in Check
Persistently high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the inner lining of the walls of your blood vessels. Cell debris, calcium, cholesterol and other fatty substances from your food accumulate in these damaged wall linings, forming plaque. Plaque can cause your arteries to stiffen, and make them narrow and clogged. This vascular damage can impede blood flow to vital organs, which can lead to organ failure.
High blood sugar levels can also delay wound healing and weaken your immune system, which can result in wounds that do not heal and recurrent infections. The best way to prevent these macro and microvascular complications is to regularly monitor and control your blood sugar levels.
5.Learn to Manage Stress
Prolonged stress can lead to high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in your body. These stress hormones can interfere with the function of insulin, which can increase your blood sugar levels. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way by meditating, exercising, or doing other mindful activities can also help improve your glycemic control.
6.Get Better Sleep
Getting a good night’s rest can help you make better food choices, prevent overeating, keep your energy levels high, help manage stress, and improve your mental well-being. All of these factors can contribute to you staying healthy.
Some studies have shown that insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation can cause your cells to become insulin resistant. This can be prevented by getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
7.Take Care of Your Heart
Diabetes increases your risk of developing hypertension, dyslipidaemia (high cholesterol levels), and cardiovascular diseases. People with diabetes are at a significantly high risk of having a stroke or a heart attack. You can prevent this by monitoring your blood pressure levels and cholesterol levels regularly, and getting frequent heart check-ups.
8.Get Regular Check-ups and Tests
Having Type 2 Diabetes can increase your chances of developing complications like
Diabetic retinopathy (damaged blood vessels in the eye)
Diabetic neuropathy (damage to neurons that can lead to pain, numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation)
Diabetic nephropathy (damaged blood vessels in the kidneys)
Delayed wound healing (prominently in your feet)
Recurrent infections, etc.
These complications can be prevented, delayed, or treated by getting regular check-ups and lab tests to monitor your organ health.
9.Treat Infections Promptly
High blood sugar levels can weaken your immune system, which can make you vulnerable to infections. Your cells need glucose to fight off infections and heal. When you have Type 2 Diabetes, your cells are unable to get enough glucose to function and heal properly. This can lead to protracted and lingering infections that may get worse with time.
Consult your primary care physician or diabetologist immediately if you suspect you are sick or have an infection. Treating illnesses promptly can keep you from developing any complications.
10.Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Consumption
The nicotine in cigarettes can worsen insulin resistance in your cells and lead to poor glycemic control. On the other hand, alcohol can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, which makes you more likely to develop hypoglycaemia or ketoacidosis. Hence, ceasing smoking and limiting or avoiding alcohol intake can help you better control your condition.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Type 2 Diabetes is a serious condition that can cause several complications, leading to reduced life expectancy.
- The average life expectancy of a Diabetic (Type 2) can be reduced by up to 10 years when compared to healthy individuals of the same age.
- The factors that determine your life expectancy as a Type 2 Diabetic are your age at the time of developing the condition, adherence to treatment, and access to quality healthcare services.
- High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, smoking, and having other health conditions like heart disease, liver disorders, kidney disorders, etc. can also affect your life expectancy.
- Short-term and long-term complications of diabetes like hypoglycaemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, nephropathy, cardiovascular diseases, etc. can also cause mortality and lower your life expectancy.
- You can live just as long as people without diabetes by eating a diabetic-friendly diet, exercising regularly, keeping your blood sugar levels in control, maintaining a healthy weight, learning to manage stress, sleeping for at least 7 to 9 hours, getting regular health check-ups, treating infections and illnesses promptly, and making healthy lifestyle changes by quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.
Diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2, can cause several short-term and long-term complications when left untreated. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious problems like organ damage, coma, or death.
Yes, it is possible to live a long and full life with diabetes. The key to maintaining good health with this condition is to keep your blood sugar levels in control and follow your treatment plan.
Type 2 Diabetes does not necessarily worsen with age. The longer you have the condition, the more likely you are to develop complications associated with it.
Ignoring your diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes can lead to high and uncontrolled blood sugar levels. In the long term, high blood sugar levels can lead to life-altering complications that can affect your eyes, kidneys, heart, nerves, limbs, etc..This can affect your quality of life. Short term complications like diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to hospitalisation, diabetic coma, or in some cases, death.
Yes, Type 2 Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects all aspects of your health. It can shorten your lifespan if left untreated and uncontrolled. Thus diabetes & life expectancy are closely linked.