What is the Life Expectancy When You Have Type 2 Diabetes?

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is important to be aware of your life expectancy and what you can…(continue reading)

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is important to be aware of your life expectancy and what you can do to improve it. Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a serious disease that can lead to medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, and even death if not managed properly. The good news is that with proper treatment and management, most people with type 2 diabetes can live a long, healthy life. In this article, we will discuss the life expectancy for people with type 2 diabetes and what you can do to improve it.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes sugar, also called glucose. Glucose is obtained from the food you eat and is used by your cells to produce energy. Your cells also need the hormone insulin to process the glucose, and when your body stops making or responding to insulin, blood sugar levels become too high. This can lead to a number of problems including infections, kidney damage, and cardiovascular disease to name a few.

Types of diabetes

Diabetes is actually a group of different diseases with different causes that raise your blood sugar. There are three common types of diabetes and they include:

Type 1

Development of Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. This happens because your autoimmune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas which causes your body to stop producing insulin. In turn, if you have type 1 you must take insulin injections or use an insulin pump every day to stay alive. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed as a child, teenager, or young adult but can occur at any age and is also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Type 2

People with type 2 diabetes are usually overweight and their bodies often become insulin resistant, which is when your body can’t use the insulin it produces properly. This type of diabetes is usually diagnosed in adults, hence why it used to be called adult-onset diabetes, but is now occurring more frequently in children and teenagers due to the rise in obesity. Type 2 diabetes can usually be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes only occurs during the period of time while you are pregnant. It happens when your body can’t make enough insulin to meet the needs of your body and the growing baby. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after delivery, but if you have had it you are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.

Now that we know the different types, let’s look at how specifically type 2 diabetes can affect your life expectancy.

Type 2 diabetes and how it affects your life expectancy

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, accounting for 90% to 95% of all cases, and there are many variables that come into play when talking about life expectancy. Since type 2 diabetes most frequently afflicts people who are older, overweight, and out of shape, it will depend on how each person takes care of their bodies and manages their diabetes to determine their life expectancies. One previous study from the UK found that type 2 diabetes will have a shorter life expectancy by up 10 years, but this number can be higher or lower depending on other risk factors. Another Canadian study found that diabetes will decrease life expectancy by six years in women and five years in men on average. As you can see, there are differences in life expectancy between the numbers so there is no clear answer.

People who die from diabetes complications usually succumb to complications caused by its risk factors as diabetes increases your chance for them. Below we will examine how both can negatively affect your health and ultimately your average life expectancy.

What risk factors can increase my chance?

There are a few risk factors that have been associated with type 2 diabetes that will increase your risk for diabetes and its complications and also shorten your life expectancy if you already have it too. These common risk factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity and not getting enough exercise
  • Smoking
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Having an unhealthy diet that is low in fiber and high in fat, particularly saturated fat and trans fat, and high in salt
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep or rest
  • Lipid disorders that produce high levels of LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol
  • High blood sugar levels

The above risk factors can contribute to diabetes and also lower your life expectancy. If you have type 2 diabetes or are at risk for it you should talk to your doctor about how to eliminate this excess risk if possible.

What diabetic complications can be caused by these risk factors?

There are a few complications caused by risk factors for type 2 diabetes that can decrease your life expectancy. These complications of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Cardiovascular complications including heart disease and stroke
  • Ulcers
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Nerve damage also called neuropathy
  • Gum disease
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis – a condition that occurs when your blood has too much glucose which can lead to serious medical problems and even death
  • Infections
  • High blood pressure which is also called hypertension
  • Infections
  • High cholesterol

All of these diabetes complications can contribute to lower life expectancies. The longer you have diabetes also contributes to lowering your life expectancy because you are more likely to develop these diabetes-related complications the longer you have it.

How can I manage my diabetes and help increase my life expectancy?

There are a few things you can do to help manage and possibly even prevent type 2 diabetes and also potentially increase your life expectancy. These include:

  • Exercising
  • Stopping smoking
  • Managing stress levels
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Monitoring blood sugar levels
  • Taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • Preventing infections by practicing good hygiene

All of these things can help you manage type 2 diabetes and potentially increase your life expectancy and quality of life. If you have type 2 diabetes or are at risk for it, talk to your doctor about how to best manage and prevent the disease.

Summary

Diabetes is a group of diseases that raise your blood glucose levels which can cause a myriad of medical problems. There are several common types, however, type 2 is the most common and is usually caused by lifestyle choices. Some studies have found that type 2 diabetes will lower your life expectancy by anywhere on average from 5 to 10 years, but this number can be higher or lower depending on other risk factors. The main complications caused by type 2 diabetes that decrease life expectancy are cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, high blood pressure, and diabetic ketoacidosis among others. However, there are a few things you can do to help manage type 2 diabetes and potentially increase your life expectancy including living a healthy lifestyle by exercising, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and monitoring your blood sugar level. If you have type 2 diabetes or are at risk for it, talk to your doctor or health care professional about the best ways to manage and prevent the disease or how to obtain a diabetes diagnosis.

References and Sources:

CDC

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Erik Rivera and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera. 

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