The study, which took place between 1950 and the mid-1990s, focused on 5,000 people living in Framingham, Mass. It found that people who were diabetic at age 50 were more than twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those who were diabetes-free. Men with diabetes had lives that were on average more than 7 1/2 years shorter then men without the disease; women with diabetes lived about eight years less than their non-diabetic counterparts.
"When you compare that overall to the whole population, you could say diabetes is depriving people of about 10 percent of their lifespan compared to people who don't have it," Early Show medical contributor Dr. Emily Senay said.
She said diabetes can also lead to blindness, amputations, kidney disease, nerve damage and other consequences that in most cases are preventable if people properly manage their diabetes.
"It's eating a diet that's really healthy, low-fat foods," Senay said. "At least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week can help control diabetes. It can also prevent it."
The Center for Disease Control says that from 1995 to 2005, the number of people in America diagnosed with diabetes nearly doubled. In the most recent reporting year, 2005, 1.5 million adults were diagnosed for the first time. All indications are that those numbers will keep going up unless Americans take better care of themselves.
"Many experts say this is just the tip of the iceberg," Senay said. "Clearly, there's a lot of work that needs to be done on the part of public health officials and individuals."