Diabetes Around the World

90% of adult diabetics do not meet healthy target levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Around the world, millions of people face an increased risk of early death from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases related to diabetes. Researchers found that poor diagnoses and ineffective treatment are to blame.

Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington conducted a study on the diagnosis, treatment, management of diabetes in Colombia, England, Iran, Mexico, Scotland, Thailand, and the United States. They found that patients received ineffective treatment for diabetes and related cardiovascular diseases in all seven countries.

For example, more than 16 million adult diabetics (90 percent of adult diabetics) in the United States do not meet healthy target levels of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Even more alarming, 99 percent of adult diabetics in Mexico do not meet these targets.

The researchers also found that as much as 62 percent of diabetic men in Thailand go undiagnosed or untreated for their disease. Furthermore, most diabetics in all seven countries are not being treated for cardiovascular the cardiovascular risks related to diabetes. This is a problem, as the risks posed by cardiovascular complications can be just as harmful as diabetes itself.

According to Dr. Stephen Lim, Associate Professor of Global Health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and one of the study's co-authors, the number of people that go undiagnosed and untreated for diabetes and related cardiovascular diseases is too high. The low rates of diagnosis and effective treatment represent a missed opportunity to reduce the impact of diabetes in all countries, regardless of socioeconomic status.

Dr. Lim and colleagues analyzed a number of potential factors that might have influenced the high rates of poor diagnoses and treatments. One of those factors was socioeconomic status. The researchers found no disparities between rich and poor regarding the quality of diagnosis and treatment. Rather, among countries with health insurance data, health insurance status had a much stronger effect than wealth on diagnosis and treatment.

It is hard to document the trends of diabetes diagnosis and treatment in most countries, says co-author Dr. Rafael Lozano, professor of Global Health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Lozano adds that more countries need to contribute to the data by committing to more blood sample surveys from a representative portion of the population. Doing so will allow researchers to analyze trends more easily and to come up with better solutions to the global health problem posed by diabetes and its related cardiovascular diseases.

In the United States alone, nearly 26 million children and adults are affected by diabetes, with about seven million people going undiagnosed. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely than people without diabetes to have heart disease. Among people 65 years of age and older, at least 68 percent of diabetes-related deaths in 2004 were the result of heart disease.

The study appears in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 4, 2011
Last Updated:
March 7, 2011