High blood glucose responsible for over 3 million deaths worldwide

In addition to almost one million diabetes deaths, high blood glucose is responsible for 2.2 million cardiovascular* deaths worldwide, according to an Article in this week's issue of The Lancet. The findings mean that one in five deaths from ischaemic heart disease** and one in eight from stroke worldwide are attributable to higher-than-optimum blood glucose.

A person's risk of death from heart disease or stroke increases continuously with their blood glucose level, from concentrations well below conventional thresholds used to define diabetes. Deaths that are directly linked to diabetes therefore underestimate the total burden of the condition.

In the latest study Goodarz Danaei, Majid Ezzati (Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA) and colleagues quantified the effects of higher-than-optimum concentrations of blood glucose on mortality from ischaemic heart disease and stroke worldwide. The investigators gathered data on blood glucose from 52 countries in different world regions. They found that in 2001, 960 000 deaths were directly assigned to diabetes in the world. In addition to these deaths, worldwide 1.5 million deaths from ischaemic heart disease and 700 000 deaths from stroke were caused by blood glucose levels that were high but lower than the traditional definition of diabetes. These results show that total mortality from higher-than-optimum blood glucose is 3•16 million; substantially higher than the 960 000 deaths coded to diabetes. This figure is comparable to deaths from smoking (4•8 million), high cholesterol (3•9 million), and overweight and obesity (2•4 million).

The authors conclude: "Higher-than-optimum blood glucose is a leading cause of cardiovascular mortality in most world regions. Cardiovascular risk and diabetes management and control programs need to be more closely integrated rather than being in different spheres." (Quote by e-mail; not in published paper)

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EMBARGO: 18:30H ET Thursday November 9, 2006

See also accompanying Comment.

Contact: Dr Majid Ezzati, Department of Population and International Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA. T) +1 617 495 9048 mezzati@hsph.harvard.edu

Notes to editors *Cardiovascular disease – class of diseases that involve the heart and/or blood vessels

**Ischaemic heart disease - characterised by reduced blood supply to the heart muscle


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