Steep Drop in Death Among Diabetic Men
Women With Diabetes Saw No Declines Over 3 Decades
June 18, 2007 -- The death rate for men with diabetes has dropped sharply in
recent decades, but similar declines have not been seen in women with the
disease, a new analysis from the CDC shows.
CDC researchers examined data from a national health database to get a
clearer picture of mortality trends among people with diabetes between 1970 and
While deaths from heart disease and other causes declined steadily during
the period for men and women who did not have diabetes and for men with the
disease, the death rate among female diabetes patients did not decline at
Deaths from all causes among men with diabetes fell by 43% during the
30-year period. Deaths due to cardiovascular causes were cut in half among men
with diabetes during the period, from 26 deaths to about 13 deaths annually for
every 1,000 men with the disease.
Heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events are the leading causes
of death among people with diabetes.
“The encouraging findings in men tell us that diabetics can benefit as much
as the general population from treatments and other interventions aimed at
reducing cardiovascular risk,” CDC epidemiologist Edward W. Gregg, PhD, tells
WebMD. ”The challenge is to understand why women with diabetes don’t seem to be
benefiting in the same way as men.”
Less Treatment, Greater Risk?
The design of the CDC study did not allow the researchers to address this
question. But cardiologist Nanette Wenger, MD, tells WebMD that less aggressive
treatment appears to be a contributing factor.
Wenger is chief of cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and is a
professor of medicine at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Medicine.
“Diabetics don’t die of diabetes, they die of cardiovascular disease,” she
says. “It is clear that women in general receive fewer interventions to lower
cardiovascular risk, and this is probably even more true of women with
In an editorial accompanying the study, Wenger suggests that women with
diabetes may be at greater risk for cardiovascular events than men with the
The study and editorial appear in the latest online issue of the journal
Annals of Internal Medicine.
Newer Data Suggest Improvement
The CDC study showed no decline in death rates among women with diabetes
during the three decades leading up to the year 2000, but there are hints that
improvements may have occurred in the years since.
Earlier this year, government researchers announced a steady decline in
heart-related deaths among women in the United States between the years 2000
and 2004, paralleling a rising awareness among women of their risk of dying
from heart disease.
And a report released this week by another government agency showed major
improvements in the treatment of women with diabetes between 2000 and 2003.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report concluded that “women
are now about as likely as men to get recommended screening tests and
treatments to manage their diabetes.”
“It is clear that something has driven the decrease in heart disease
mortality among women over the last five years,” Wenger says.
She adds that it is not clear if the trend extends to women with
“That remains to be seen, but there is cause for optimism,” she adds.