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Benefits of early Type 2 diabetes control felt years later

Researchers at Oxford University have found that earlier improved blood glucose control in people with Type 2 diabetes reduces the risk of heart attacks and leads to fewer deaths. Effectively treating Type 2 diabetes as soon as it is diagnosed also reduces the risk of serious complications such as kidney disease (nephropathy) and eye disease (retinopathy), show results from a long-term study part-funded by Diabetes UK.

The UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) was the first large-scale trial to show that complications of Type 2 diabetes were not inevitable but could be delayed or prevented by good blood glucose control. When the trial finished all participants returned to their usual healthcare. The researchers continued to monitor them each year but were not involved in treatment decisions.

The importance of early control

Now, 30 years on from the start of the trial, follow-up results show that although the blood glucose control improvements seen by some participants during the trial disappeared rapidly, the advantages of earlier improved blood glucose control with respect to nephropathy and retinopathy were evident even after ten years. In addition, those with good blood glucose control early on emerged with a reduced risk of heart attacks (15%) and fewer deaths (13%).

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: "It is vital that blood glucose levels are controlled as early and effectively as possible from the time Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed. The UKPDS results prove that quickly establishing the best treatment for the individual, be it diet and physical activity alone or combined with medication, brings both long- and short-term health benefits.

Preventing complications

“Complications of diabetes such as heart disease, kidney failure, amputation and blindness are devastating and we must do all we can to prevent them. The UKPDS is a perfect example of how important well-planned and executed long-running studies are in providing vital evidence to inform how clinicians treat people with diabetes.

“The UKPDS was part-funded by Diabetes UK and we are proud that, 30 years on, clear care recommendations are being made that will make a difference to the quality of life and long-term health prospects of people with diabetes." 

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