High Blood Sugar a Global Killer

3.16 Million Deaths per Year Due to High Blood Sugar, Harvard Study Shows

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 09, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 9, 2006 - High blood sugar is among the world's top five killers, a Harvard study shows.

High blood sugar is one sign that a person is on the road to diabetes. But it kills many people long before they ever get diabetes, note Goodarz Danaei, MD, of Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues.

Moreover, blood sugar levels start causing problems once they pass the higher-than-normal level. It's not a matter of getting disease at a certain point. It's a matter of ever-increasing disease risk.

How big a problem is it? Danaei and colleagues looked at data from 52 nations. Their findings are staggering. Worldwide, high blood sugar is linked to 3,160,000 deaths each year.

"Our results show that one in five deaths from heart disease and one in eight from stroke worldwide are attributable to higher-than-optimum blood [sugar]," Danaei and colleagues conclude.

At 3.16 million annual deaths, high blood sugar joins a nefarious gang of thugs. As an annual cause of death, it's right up there with smoking (4.8 million deaths) and high cholesterol (3.9 million deaths). And it easily passes overweight/obesity (2.4 million deaths).

The researchers note that high blood sugar is a particular problem in low- and middle-income nations.

The findings appear in the Nov. 11 issue of The Lancet.