Death rates among people with diabetes declined substantially between 1997 and 2006, especially deaths due to stroke and heart disease, says a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

According to the researchers the decline in death rates has largely been due to improvements in blood sugar control, lifestyle changes, and early detection and intervention programs.

Diabetes has been associated with an average 10 years of life lost for individuals who are diagnosed with diabetes during middle age, researchers say.

“Taking care of your heart through healthy lifestyle choices is making a difference, but Americans continue to die from a disease that can be prevented. Although the cardiovascular disease death rate for people with diabetes has dropped, it is still twice as high as for adults without diabetes,” said Ann Albright, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation in a press release.

Researchers in the present study analyzed 1997-2004 National Health Interview Survey data from nearly 250,000 adults who were linked to the National Death Index.

According to CDC, an estimated 25.8 million people in the United States (8.3% of the population have diabetes). By 2050, 1 in 3 US adults will have diabetes.

“Diabetes carries significant personal and financial costs for individuals, their families, and the health care systems that treat them. As the number of people with diabetes increases, it will be more important than ever to manage the disease to reduce complications and premature deaths,” said Edward W. Gregg, PhD, chief of epidemiology and statistics in CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation and lead author or the present study.

CDC estimates that 7 million of people with diabetes do not know they have the disease.

The total costs of diabetes are an estimated $174 billion annually, including $116 billion in direct medical costs, CDC says.

Socioeconomic status is an important factor in deaths related to diabetes. Previous studies have shown that people of lower socioeconomic status and more likely to have diabetes and also are more likely to die of the complications associated with diabetes than people belonging to affluent and educated class.

Number of people diagnosed with diabetes in developing countries, especially in India and China, has increased substantially in the past few decades.

Lifestyle changes have been significant in developing countries like China – obesity and inadequate physical activity has contributed to the increase in type 2 diabetes. Experts say that China is facing a diabetes epidemic.

The study is published in the journal Diabetes Care.