Living With Type 1 Diabetes

insulin shot

Story at-a-glance -

  • There is no definitive answer to the question of life expectancy for Type 1 diabetics, as there are a variety of influential factors, including your age of diagnosis, your consistency in following the treatment methods and the complications that you’ve encountered
  • Improper management of blood sugar levels is the primary cause behind the shortened lifespan of people with Type 1 diabetes

When diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, one of the first questions that you may ask is, “How long can I expect to live with this disease?” Considering the lifelong and fatal characteristics of this autoimmune disorder, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d think about its effect on your future.

However, there is no definitive answer to the question of life expectancy for Type 1 diabetics, as there are a variety of influential factors, including your age when you were diagnosed, your consistency in following the treatment methods and the complications that you’ve encountered.1,2

Fortunately, it’s now easier for Type 1 diabetics to lengthen their lifespan, thanks to the leaps made in medical treatments over the years.

The Life Expectancy of Type 1 Diabetics Has Improved

Over a century ago, the life expectancy of people with Type 1 diabetes was very short. Children who had this autoimmune disorder died a few months after the diagnosis due to various complications, including diabetic ketoacidosis, tuberculosis and starvation.3

While doctors knew that blood sugar levels played a role in this disease, there wasn’t much that they could  do. This continued on until 1921, when Frederick Banting and Charles H. Best discovered insulin in the pancreatic extracts of dogs.

The insulin hormone proved to be efficient in controlling Type 1 diabetes, with its first medical success recorded in 1922. The discovery of insulin made it possible for Type 1 diabetes patients to live longer lives, which is why it’s considered one of the most important milestones in medicine.4

The continuous improvements in diabetes treatments have further prolonged the life expectancy of Type 1 diabetics, although it’s still shorter than normal.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2015, the lifespan of women with Type 1 diabetes is estimated to be 12.9 years shorter than healthy women, whereas the life expectancy of men who are diagnosed with this disease is 11.1 years shorter than healthy men.5

What Shortens the Lifespan of People With Type 1 Diabetes?

Improper management of blood sugar levels is the primary cause behind the shortened lifespan of people with Type 1 diabetes. When your glucose level goes out of hand, it may cause a variety of complications to set in, which could put your life at risk.6

Diabetes-related heart diseases are found to be one of the common causes of death in Type 1 diabetes patients. Acute complications of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, such as a diabetic coma and ketoacidosis, are also responsible for deaths of patients younger than 50 years old.7

According to researchers, this data is actually good news for those with Type 1 diabetes since it shows that severe complications are absolutely preventable and life expectancy can be prolonged as long as the blood sugar level is kept at a normal range.8,9

How to Live Longer With Type 1 Diabetes

While Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition that can cause fatal health issues, it doesn’t mean that you’re bound to have a short life. As mentioned above, the key to prolonging your life expectancy is maintaining good blood glucose control. This helps prevent complications, thereby decreasing your chances of an early death.

Keeping the blood sugar level within the proper range requires time and effort, since it involves regular blood sugar monitoring and insulin administration. Adopting a healthy and active lifestyle, as well as a well-balanced diet may also improve your overall health and prevent other diabetes-related health issues.

Make sure that you talk with your diabetic care team for more methods that are specifically suited for your needs.10,11

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