People who get diabetes in middle age could face more complications later in life than getting the disease in old age, reveals a new study.
Elizabeth Selvin of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other researchers looked at more than 2,800 people aged 65 and above with diabetes who took part in a national health survey in 1999-2002, reported the online edition of health Magazine WebMD.
The survey showed that more than 15 percent of Americans above 65 years had diabetes. The survey, which included interviews, physical exams, and blood samples, estimated that about 2.4 million more seniors have diabetes but are unaware about it.
Researchers found those who had been diagnosed with diabetes during middle age, defined as between 40 and 64 years, suffered from a very different set of health problems related to the disease than those diagnosed later in life.
For example, those diagnosed in middle age had more cases of retinopathy, an eye condition related to diabetes that affects the tiny blood vessels in the eye.
They also had much worse blood sugar control. Nearly 60 percent of the elderly with middle age-diagnosed diabetes had poor blood sugar control, compared with 42 percent of those with later-onset diabetes, the researchers said.
The risk of developing diabetes increases with age, but researchers say that until now little has been known about how age of diagnosis affects diabetes-related complications among the elderly.
Researchers say the results suggest that helping people at risk for diabetes delay getting the disease as long as possible may significantly reduce diabetes-related health problems in their golden years.
"Our study reinforces the need to help adults who are middle-aged take steps to prevent diabetes," Selvin said.