Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. According to statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around one in every 10 adults over the age of 20, suffer from this condition.

T2D was previously considered a disease occurring in older people, but the past decades have seen a growing number of patients among young adults, adolescents and even children. A new study conducted by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia has now identified a correlation between early-onset diabetes and mortality due to heart disease and stroke.

The research, published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, was based on data of over 740,000 individuals with T2D. The subjects registered on Australia's National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) between 1997 and 2011. The average age at which they were diagnosed with the condition was 59 years.

After studying the data, researchers were able to surmise that in the case of two patients of the same age, the one diagnosed 10 years earlier had a 60% higher chance of dying from cardiovascular disease.

"An earlier diagnosis of type 2 diabetes — and thus a longer duration of disease — was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality, primarily driven by cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality,” said study authors Professor Dianna Magliano and Professor Jonathan Shaw of Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne.

"Evidence is accumulating to suggest that earlier onset of type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of complications and co-morbidities compared with later onset, and that the development and progression of complications might be more aggressive in those with earlier onset," they added.

The authors called for increased clinical attention for younger T2D patients along with focus on timely optimization of individuals' self-management skills and medical treatment to prevent or reduce the onset of complications.

“There is a need to identify and screen those at high risk of developing diabetes so that individuals can make lifestyle changes that will prevent or delay the onset of diabetes," they mentioned.

Additionally, the study indicated people who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes earlier were less at risk of getting cancer as compared with those diagnosed at an older age. The authors believe that early detection of T2D and subsequent regular contact with the healthcare system could increase the likelihood of any present but undiagnosed cancer being detected.

"A healthy diet and regular physical activity are essential tools at all ages to minimize the risks of developing diabetes and its cardiovascular complications,” Shaw told SBS News. “It should also be remembered that everyone can make a difference to their health trajectory by leading a healthy lifestyle."