Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Good News! Deaths From Type 1 Diabetes Dropping

By
WebMD Health News

April 26, 2001 -- Six times each day, 11-year-old Mathew Cooper tests his blood glucose levels with a monitoring device that looks like a small GameBoy. Diagnosed with type1 diabetes when he was 1 year old, the Boulder, Col., pre-teen uses the readings to decide how many carbohydrates to eat with each meal and how much insulin to give himself throughout the day.

His mom, Sonia, says careful monitoring of blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels has allowed her son to live a completely normal life. He is on the swim team at school, loves to play lacrosse and hockey, and regularly goes skiing with his family.

"He has never had a seizure, and he has never had a severe low [blood sugar] that has required medical assistance," she tells WebMD. "I think that frequent testing [of blood glucose levels] is largely responsible for this. We have been monitoring Mathew since he was 1, and it's just second nature to us."

Approximately 750,000 people in the U.S. have type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes. Once known as juvenile-onset diabetes because it is most often diagnosed in children or adolescents, type 1 diabetes results from the body's failure to produce insulin and was once a leading cause of death in children.

Now an ongoing study shows a dramatic drop in type 1 diabetes deaths over the last two decades, and researchers give much of the credit to improved monitoring of blood glucose levels by both patients and their physicians.

"Since around 1980, we have had the ability to monitor glucose levels much more closely, and this study shows it is paying off in terms of [saving lives]," study author Trevor Orchard, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, tells WebMD. "[Clinical] trials have shown that close monitoring is important, but these findings offer dramatic evidence that this is true within the community."

For more than two decades Orchard and colleagues followed more than 1,000 type 1 diabetics living in Pittsburgh. All were diagnosed between 1965 and 1979. Their latest findings, reported in the May issue of the journal Diabetes Care, show that more than twice as many patients diagnosed in the early years of the study (1965-1969) died within 20 years of diagnosis compared with those diagnosed in the later years (1975-79). The patients in the latter group are now in their 20s and 30s.

"The timing of this drop in deaths exactly fits the introduction of advanced monitoring devices," Orchard says. "These patients have had the benefit of being able to closely track their insulin requirements."

While the figures are encouraging, American Diabetes Association President-Elect Christopher D. Saudek, MD, points out that the overall mortality rate for people with type 1 diabetes is still twice that of those without the disease. And a decline in mortality rates among blacks did not change the fact that they are three times more likely to die from type 1 diabetes within 20 years of being diagnosed than are whites.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article