Having a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis at a Younger Age Is Linked to Poorer Outcomes

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Key Takeaways

  • A new study found that being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at an earlier age is linked to serious health complications.
  • Experts say earlier screening will allow for earlier treatment to prevent the disease from worsening.

New research has found that the age at which people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is associated with a higher risk of developing serious complications.

The study, which was published in JAMA Network Open, analyzed health data from more than 36,000 Americans aged 50 and above.

The researchers found that those who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between the ages of 50 and 59 had “elevated risks” of heart disease, stroke, disability, cognitive impairment, and early death. But when people were diagnosed with diabetes later in life, the risks were reduced.

The study results highlighted “the importance of improving diabetes management in adults with earlier diagnosis,” according to the researchers.

Researchers are unsure why being diagnosed with diabetes under the age of 60 is linked to a higher risk of a slew of serious health conditions. But experts say people who have diabetes for longer are exposed to more potential complications.

Kathleen Dungan, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Verywell that younger age is known to be “a predictor of worse outcomes” in people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes because of longer disease duration. But the study found the same association even though it controlled for the duration of the disease regardless of the age diagnosed.

“This suggests that persons who are diagnosed at an earlier age have inherently more aggressive disease that is more resistant to treatment,” Dungan said.

What Does This Mean for Diabetes Screening?

In general, experts say it’s important to be screened for diabetes so that patients can get the proper treatment they need.

“Screening for diabetes, especially in high-risk people, and starting lifestyle changes and treatment early on can improve the outcome,” said Camille Tawil, MD, a primary care physician with Mercy Personal Physicians in Maryland.

But Dungan said there may be more to it than just catching and treating diabetes early—looking at other risk factors is necessary, too.

“Appropriate treatment, particularly through lowering glucose levels, has been shown to greatly reduce these risks,” Dungan said. “On the other hand, other outcomes such as cardiovascular disease, while tightly linked to a diagnosis of diabetes, are less tightly linked to glucose levels. These require attention to multiple risk factors for optimal prevention.”

Still, the study “does support the concept of earlier screening, as it is known that earlier diagnosis and treatment is effective for preventing complications,” Dungan said.

If you have risk factors for diabetes or are actually showing signs of the disease, experts recommend talking to your doctor about getting screened.

What This Means For You

While common, diabetes is a health condition that can have serious complications if left untreated. Talk to your doctor about getting screened if you are showing symptoms of the disease.

1 Source
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  1. Cigolle CT, Blaum CS, Lyu C, Ha J, Kabeto M, Zhong J. Associations of age at diagnosis and duration of diabetes with morbidity and mortality among older adultsJAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(9):e2232766. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.32766

By Korin Miller
Korin Miller is a health and lifestyle journalist who has been published in The Washington Post, Prevention, SELF, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among other outlets.