THURSDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer U.S. children and teens are dying from diabetes, according to federal health officials. The overall death rate in this group fell from 2.69 per million in 1968-1969 to 1.05 per million in 2008-2009.
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Possible reasons for the 61 percent decrease include improved diabetes care and treatment. Another possible factor: increased awareness of diabetes symptoms, which can lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of new cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers said in an agency news release.
The decline in diabetes-related deaths was greater among children younger than 10 than among older children, the investigators found. Younger children had a 78 percent decrease -- from 1.80 to 0.39 deaths per million. Children and teens aged 10 to 19 years had a 52 percent decrease: from 3.56 to 1.71 per million.
Despite the overall decline, the diabetes death rate among youths aged 10 to 19 years increased 1.6 percent per year between 1984 and 2009, the researchers noted. The reasons for this increase are unknown.
It may be because youths who were diagnosed with diabetes before age 10 and who previously may have died before age 10 now live longer and die between the ages of 10 and 19, suggested study author Sharon Saydah and colleagues from the CDC's division of diabetes translation at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, offered some advice for how to keep these patients healthy.
"Physicians need to emphasize diabetes awareness, lifestyle modification, psychological issues, and use of insulin pumps in young diabetic patients," said Mezitis, who was not involved with the study.
"Deaths from diabetes in young persons have decreased substantially due to improved diabetes awareness and care," he added, but more research is needed on how to further reduce diabetes-related deaths in youth.
The CDC researchers concluded that "deaths resulting from diabetes in youths potentially are preventable, and these findings indicate a need for improved diabetes diagnosis and care, especially among youths aged 10 to 19 years, whose risk for diabetes-related mortality appears to have increased in recent years."
The study was published Nov. 1 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
In 2010, about 215,000 U.S. youths aged 19 and younger had diagnosed diabetes. November is National Diabetes Month.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCES: Spyros Mezitis, M.D., endocrinologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Nov. 1, 2012