In the coming decades, the population of older adults with diabetes is expected to grow substantially. Understanding the clinical course of diabetes in this population is critical for establishing evidence-based clinical practice recommendations, research priorities, allocating resources, and setting health policies.
Contrast rates of diabetes complications and mortality across age and diabetes duration categories.
Design, Setting, Participants
This cohort study (2004–2010) included 72,310 older (≥60 years of age) patients with type 2 diabetes enrolled in a large, integrated healthcare delivery system. Incidence densities (events per 1000 person-years (pys)) were calculated for each age category (60s, 70s, 80+ years) and duration of diabetes (shorter: 0–9 years vs. longer: 10+ years).
Main Outcome Measures
Incident acute hyperglycemic events, acute hypoglycemic events (hypoglycemia), microvascular complications [end-stage renal disease (ESRD), peripheral vascular disease, lower extremity amputation, advanced eye disease], cardiovascular complications [coronary artery disease (CAD), cerebrovascular disease (CVD), congestive heart failure (CHF)], and all-cause mortality.
Among older adults with diabetes of short duration, cardiovascular complications followed by hypoglycemia were the most common non-fatal complications. For example, among 70–79 year olds with short duration of diabetes, CAD and hypoglycemia rates were higher (11.5 and 5.0/1000 pys respectively), compared to ESRD (2.6/1000), amputation (1.3/1000), and acute hyperglycemic events (0.8/1000). We observed a similar pattern among subjects in the same age group with long diabetes duration where CAD and hypoglycemia had some of the highest incidence rates (19.0 and 15.9 /1000 pys respectively), compared to ESRD (7.6/1000), amputation (4.3/1000), and acute hyperglycemic events (1.8/1000). For a given age group, rates of each outcome, particularly hypoglycemia and microvascular complications, increased dramatically with longer duration. However, for a given duration of diabetes, rates of hypoglycemia, cardiovascular complications, and mortality increased steeply with advancing age, while rates of microvascular complications remained stable or declined.
Duration of diabetes and advancing age independently predict diabetes morbidity and mortality rates. As long-term survivorship with diabetes increases and as the population ages, more research and public health efforts to reduce hypoglycemia will be needed, to complement ongoing efforts to reduce cardiovascular and microvascular complications.