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Diabetes

Life Expectancy With Advanced Diabetes?

07/13/2010

Question:

I am helping a friend (age 74) as he makes some major life decisions. He was recently diagnosed with diabetes, based on discovery that he had retinal hemmohraging. He also has persistent high blood pressure, has recently been severely anemic, has foot swelling and tingling, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, etc. He only recently started going to a doctor, and is finally being treated for these conditions. My question will sound harsh, but I`m trying to gauge roughly how long he might have left to live. The immediate issue is whether I should try harder to encourage him to sell his house (so he can qualify for Medicade - as of now he is paying for everything out of pocket), or whether his bank account will last sufficiently to continue to cover his own health care for the rest of his life. He seems very sick, and this is a very sad situation. Any insight you could give me would help. Thanks so much.

Answer:

I am glad that you are helping your friend – having a loved one care for them improves one’s life expectancy.

You ask a very difficult question that is not easily, if impossible, to answer. Our time on earth is limited, and no one truly knows that limit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the average life expectancy for a man is 78 years of age. However, the CDC also notes that for men age 75 years of age, they may be expected to live on average another 10.8 years.

With those statistics, there are so many things that can alter these numbers. It is well known that diabetes and hypertension will shorten life, especially if not well controlled. Your friend also sounds like he may have kidney or heart problems with his symptoms, so that too will shorten his life. Given this, I would expect your friend not to live to age 88. I know that isn’t exactly the type of answer you were looking for, but there are so many factors to take into consideration.

There is a profession that actually calculates length of life (actuarial science). Several on-line calculators are available, such as: http://gosset.wharton.upenn.edu/mortality/perl/CalcForm.html  and http://calculator.livingto100.com/.

Your friend’s best chances are if he gets his blood pressure and sugar under control.

For more information:

Go to the Diabetes health topic, where you can:

Response by:

W. Fred Miser, MD W. Fred Miser, MD
Professor of Family Medicine
Director of Ohio State Medicine Residency Program
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University