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A new study suggests younger type-2 diabetes is bad for the heart

Photo: Younger type-2 diabetes bad for heart
A new study suggests younger-onset type 2 diabetes increases the risk of death from heart attack and stroke.

The earlier a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the higher their risk of dying from heart attack and stroke, an Australian study has found.

The concerning finding has prompted calls for more "aggressive" prevention and intervention to prevent the delay the onset of T2D in young people.

Researchers at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute analysed data of more than 700,000 Australians with T2D who were registered on the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) over a 15-year period between 1997 and 2011.

The average age at diagnosis was 59 years, and a total of 115,363 deaths occurred during the study period.
Published in journal Diabetologia, the study showed a T2D patient diagnosed 10 years earlier than another person of the same age had a 50 per cent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

"Our findings suggest that younger-onset type 2 diabetes increases mortality risk, and that this is mainly through earlier CVD mortality," the authors wrote.

"Efforts to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes might, therefore, reduce mortality," they concluded.

In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas does not work effectively, meaning the body builds insulin resistance and is unable to effectively convert glucose into energy leaving too much in the blood.

Once considered an older persons' disease, in recent decades the prevalence of T2D in adolescents and young adults has risen "considerably" around the world, driven by rising obesity rates, say the authors.

In 2011, those diagnosed with the disease aged from 10 to 39 years accounted for around nine per cent of all new cases.

Similar trends have been found in many countries across the world "making young adults the fastest growing group for new-onset type 2 diabetes", the authors warned.

Lead author Professor Dianna Magliano says diabetes prevention programs must not forget this vulnerable group of people.

"We're currently focused on preventing type 2 diabetes in upper middle-age, but I guess what this paper says is that we can't forget about young people and we know that people are getting diabetes younger and younger in the developed world and we really have to focus on prevention across the whole spectrum," she said.

Professor Jonathan Shaw, Head of Clinical Diabetes Research at the Baker Institute, says the findings also suggest that early and aggressive cardiovascular risk factor management may be needed.

"Efforts to treat younger adults with type 2 diabetes more aggressively, and to delay the onset of type 2 diabetes might, therefore, reduce mortality," said Professor Shaw.

"A healthy diet and regular physical activity are essential tools at all ages to minimise the risks of developing diabetes and its cardiovascular complications. It should also be remembered that everyone can make a difference to their health trajectory by leading a healthy lifestyle."

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