TUESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- Healthier lifestyles and better disease management led to a sharp drop in death rates for Americans with diabetes between 1997 and 2006, especially deaths caused by heart disease and stroke, a new federal government report shows.
During that time, deaths from all causes for Americans with diabetes fell by 23 percent and deaths caused by heart disease and stroke in this group declined by 40 percent, according to the analysis of 1997-2004 National Health Interview Survey data on nearly 250,000 adults.
One expert said the findings were reason for hope.
"The encouraging news that less diabetic patients are dying from heart disease and stroke is a testament to multiple factors that have changed the playing field," said Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
The study was conducted by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. They stressed that despite improvements in care, adults with diabetes are still more likely to die at a younger age than those without the disease. Nevertheless, the gap is narrowing, they said.
Contributing to the decline in death rates among people with diabetes were improved medical treatments for heart disease, better management of diabetes, better control of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and healthy lifestyle changes among diabetes patients, who were less likely to smoke and more likely to be physically active than in the past.
Narula agreed, noting that improvements in drug therapy and control of risk factors have been key to keeping diabetic patients healthier for longer. Advances in the surgical care of heart disease have helped, too, she said.
"Finally, widespread educational campaigns about heart disease and diabetes have increased awareness in the general public and physician practice of how diabetes affects the cardiovas
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