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You Can Control Type 2 Diabetes and Live a Longer Life

A landmark study led by scientists from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh has revealed that early and intensive blood glucose control significantly reduces the lifetime risk of diabetes-related complications, such as heart attacks, kidney failure, and vision loss. These latest findings from the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS), one of the longest clinical trials in type 2 diabetes, underscore the critical importance of early intervention in managing the disease.

The Importance of Early Detection and Treatment

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Professor Rury Holman, founding Director of the University of Oxford Diabetes Trials Unit and Chief Investigator of the UKPDS, emphasized the significance of early detection and intensive treatment of type 2 diabetes. “These remarkable findings highlight the critical importance of detecting and treating type 2 diabetes intensively at the earliest possible opportunity,” he stated. Many individuals with type 2 diabetes may remain undiagnosed for years, often presenting few symptoms until blood sugar levels become significantly elevated.

Initiated in 1977, the UKPDS randomly assigned individuals with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes to either an intensive blood glucose control strategy using sulfonylureas, insulin, or metformin, or a conventional strategy primarily focused on diet. The initial 20-year results, published in 1998, demonstrated that good blood glucose control could reduce the risk of diabetic complications. These findings led to worldwide changes in diabetes management guidelines, advocating for intensive blood glucose control for all patients with type 2 diabetes.

Long-Term Benefits and the Legacy Effect

The latest results reveal that the benefits of early intensive blood glucose control extend far beyond the duration of the initial trial. The legacy effects of this approach have persisted for up to 24 years after the trial concluded. Individuals who received early intensive blood glucose control with insulin or sulfonylureas experienced:

  • 10% fewer deaths
  • 17% fewer heart attacks
  • 26% fewer diabetic complications, including kidney failure and vision loss

Those treated with metformin showed even more significant benefits:

  • 31% fewer heart attacks
  • 20% fewer deaths

These treatments, still widely used and cost-effective, have shown remarkable long-term efficacy.

Impact on Mortality and Quality of Life

Professor Philip Clarke, Director of the University of Oxford Health Economics Research Center, highlighted the increased life expectancy and improved quality of life for those receiving intensive treatment. 

Dr. Will Whiteley, Professor in Neurology and Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh Center for Clinical Brain Sciences, noted the invaluable role of linked NHS data sources in the study. “Following up UKPDS participants for up to 42 years was possible only with the rich linked NHS data sources across U.K. nations. This meant we could study the effects of treatments given in midlife on diseases of aging, such as dementia,” he explained.

The findings from the UKPDS emphasize the crucial importance of early and intensive blood glucose control in managing type 2 diabetes. By significantly reducing the risk of severe complications and improving life expectancy and quality of life, this approach offers a compelling case for revising diabetes management strategies worldwide. As researchers continue to explore the long-term benefits of such interventions, the importance of early detection and proactive treatment becomes increasingly clear.

What do you think of these findings about diabetes? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.