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In Mexico, diabetes causes half of all deaths at ages 35-74 years from cardiovascular disease, kidney disease or infections, according to new research published on Monday March 19 in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Researchers from the University of Oxford (UK) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) interviewed and collected blood from 150,000 men and women in Mexico City and tracked them for mortality for 14 years. In the study, diabetes was common – affecting more than 20% by age 60 years – poorly managed, and greatly increased the risk of premature death from many other diseases, but particularly from cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and infections. Those with diabetes had about seven times the death rate from these causes compared to others, a risk difference which is about twice as big as that normally seen in high-income countries.

Among people with diabetes, death rates were very much higher among those who had been living with diabetes the longest and those with the worst blood sugar control. Those with diabetes for more than 10 years when surveyed had 12 times the death rate from vascular disease, kidney disease or infection compared to people without diabetes.

Co-author Professor Pablo Kuri, Undersecretary for Prevention at the Mexican Health Ministry and Professor at the School of Medicine at UNAM, said “Diabetes is a public health emergency in Mexico. This study shows the impact it has on shortening Mexican lifespan and reinforces the need for co-ordinated national strategies aimed at both preventing diabetes as well as improving its treatment.”

Co-author Dr William Herrington explained “More than 400 million people worldwide have diabetes and most are from low- and middle-income countries where resources to treat diabetes and its complications might be less available than in high-income countries.”  He added that “The results from this study act as a warning about the potential effect diabetes can have on shortening lifespan.”

Co-author Dr Jonathan Emberson said “While prevention is better than cure, the risks for people with diabetes can be greatly reduced by inexpensive drugs that control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.”

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