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Diabetes Deaths Decline - But Not for Women

Death rates in the United States have been declining since the 1970s. But according to a report by epidemiologist Edward Gregg at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the trend in death rates for diabetics is split by gender.

Among men with diabetes, Gregg and his colleagues found substantial reductions in death rates. Men with diabetes from the 1990s had death rates about 40% lower than those of their counterparts two decades beforehand. But for women with diabetes, death rates did not improve.

To compare men and women with and without diabetes, Gregg and his colleagues looked at mortality rates of close to 20,000 people who participated in one of three national health surveys between 1971 and 1994. Diabetic men showed a clear decline in death rates, in parallel with men who did not have the disease. For women with diabetes, there was no corresponding decline.

Although the current study did not look into the underlying reasons for the gender difference, Gregg suggests that this would be a next logical step. "Is it mainly problems with access to care, or is it differences in the care […] once women have access," he asks, "or, […] is it a matter of needing to […] use different types of treatments and interventions among women?"

As Gregg points out, though, diabetes is still a killer for both men and women. "Even though we found encouraging results in men, and […] not such encouraging results in women," he says, "both men and women still do have higher death rates than the non-diabetic populations."

For both men and women, Gregg emphasizes, there's still a lot that could be done.

You can find Dr. Gregg's report, along with an accompanying editorial and video news release, on the website of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The article will also be published in the August 7 print edition of this journal.