Jan. 28, 2008 -- The number of older Americans diagnosed with diabetes grew by nearly a quarter in the last decade, a rate that experts say threatens not only the health of the elderly but the viability of the nation's health care system.
A new study shows the number of new diabetes cases diagnosed among Americans over 65 increased by 23% from 1994-1995 to 2003-2004, and the prevalence of the disease overall grew by 62% among the elderly during the same time period.
Researchers say that if those trends continue, the burden of financing and providing medical care for elderly people with diabetes may prove too much for the health care system.
In an editorial that accompanies the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Frank Vinicor, MD, MPH of the CDC writes, "Taken to the extreme, there will soon be too many patients with diabetes to be individually treated and not enough money to pay for it all!
"Given these possibilities, primary prevention programs must be put in place before the diabetes of advancing age becomes a reality."
Diabetes Surges Among Elderly
In the study, Frank A. Sloan, PhD, and colleagues at Duke University Medical Center analyzed Medicare data on the number of elderly people diagnosed with diabetes in 1994, 1999, and 2003 and related complications, including heart disease and stroke.
The results showed the rate of diabetes diagnosed among the elderly increased by 23% and prevalence increased by 62% overall.
Nearly 90% of people with diabetes experienced at least one diabetes-related complication in the next six years after diagnosis. For example, almost half of those with diabetes in 1994 and 1999 still living at the end of the study had a diagnosis of congestive heart failure.
After diagnosis with diabetes, the death rate within six years in elderly people with diabetes decreased by 8.3% compared with those who were not diagnosed and treated for the disease, which the researchers found "somewhat surprising."
Researchers say that with the aging population and increased rates of diabetes, the demand for diabetes-related medical care will surely increase, both for monitoring of diabetes and treating its related complications.