Diabetes At 40 Life Expectancy


Do you know what diabetes is? Have you ever wondered what your life expectancy with diabetes is? Do you know how to prevent or manage the risks of diabetes?

An increasing number of individuals are being diagnosed with diabetes due to the increase in rates of obesity across the globe. By 2030, 438 million people are expected to be affected by diabetes. This has also meant an increase in people suffering from diabetes earlier in life. 

This article will teach you:

  • What diabetes is
  • What a diagnosis at the age of 40 may mean
  • What diabetes does to your body 
  • How you can act now to prevent the onset of diabetes or manage your condition

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition caused by chronic high glucose levels in the blood, known as hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can cause organ damage as well as increase the risk of other complications such as heart and renal conditions.5

Normally, when food is broken down, sugars (glucose) are released from food into the blood. A hormone called insulin works by absorbing glucose from the bloodstream and breaking it down within cells to produce energy. 

There are two main types of diabetes: 

  • Type 1 or Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus is inherited, usually developing early in life, with diagnosis primarily between the ages of 0-14.3 This form of diabetes is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin, so people with type 1 diabetes have no insulin.1,8
  • Type 2 or Diabetes Mellitus has a much slower onset, so diagnosis occurs later in life and develops most often in overweight individuals.3 Around 90-95% of diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type 2.8 This form of diabetes is caused by the body becoming resistant to insulin or where the body does not produce enough insulin. This can sometimes be referred to as insulin resistance.1
  • Often, pregnant people suffer from what is known as gestational diabetes. This is because, during pregnancy, the body may produce too much glucose for the insulin to absorb, causing high blood glucose levels.1 This type of diabetes often has no symptoms, so people at risk should be tested during pregnancy.7


The onset of diabetes can occur between 4-7 years before diagnosis.3 So it is important to be aware of the symptoms of the disease and to get screened if your family has a history of diabetes. 

Some of the most common symptoms of diabetes include, but are not limited to:7

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

Some symptoms may be specific to the type of diabetes you have:7

  • Type 1: weight loss, even when consuming more food
  • Type 2: numb feeling, tingling or pain in the hands and feet

Many people believe diabetes is an easily managed condition with insulin. However, it is important to remember that diabetes is chronic and can be accompanied by many unwanted symptoms, side effects, and endpoints, including blindness and ischaemic heart disease if blood glucose levels are not well controlled.3 

Life expectancy with diabetes

Life expectancy is usually reduced for people with diabetes. This is because the condition cannot be cured, and so over time the cells that produce insulin become more dysfunctional and increase the severity of the condition. As a result, insulin levels fall, and chronic high blood glucose levels (hyperglycaemia) increase. 

This can cause organ damage as well as damage to the nerves and blood vessels causing complications that reduce life expectancy. 

Your life expectancy with diabetes can depend on your age of diagnosis, how quickly it is identified after developing the condition, and the type of diabetes you are diagnosed with. 

Diabetics' life expectancy at 40

The earlier in life a person develops type 2 diabetes, the more serious their condition may be. For those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before the age of 40, this can considerably increase the risks of early death.13 

For those with type 1 diabetes, diagnosis usually occurs between late childhood and early adulthood, so by 40, the condition is managed well and symptoms are less severe. However, Diabetes UK has identified that approximately 1 in 5 cases of type 1 diabetes are not identified until the age of 40 or over. This is because type 1 diabetes can sometimes develop at any age.2

Diabetes Type 1 life expectancy

Despite the advances in medicine and increased diabetes research, on average, for people with type 1 diabetes:4

  • Female life expectancy can be reduced by 13 years
  • Male life expectancy can be reduced by 11 years

Diabetes Type 2 life expectancy

Life expectancy with diabetes can often be reduced. If a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 40, life expectancy may be reduced by:12

  • For females: 1.6 years
  • For males: 2.7 years (as of 2015)

However, according to Diabetes UK, life expectancy can be reduced by up to 10 years for people with diabetes.6 

Luckily, life expectancy is set to increase as healthcare knowledge increases, and by 2040, life expectancy with diabetes will also increase.12 

Diabetes complications

As with many chronic diseases, diabetes presents risks of complications to your health that go beyond any initial problems with glucose levels and diabetic symptoms. 

Early detection and good management of your diabetes should help to prevent these diabetes complications.7 Below are the possible risks and complications of diabetes.

Cardiovascular risks

Cardiovascular disease causes more deaths than any other diabetic-related complication. It is also the number one cause of death for diabetic patients.10 Cardiovascular diseases refer to conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels.9 

Diabetes can double the risk of developing cardiovascular-related conditions. Specifically, some of these conditions are:8

  • Ischaemic heart disease
  • Atherosclerosis - Diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are all risk factors for developing this condition10
  • Arrhythmias - This means an irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure

Some of the symptoms of cardiovascular disease can include:10

  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness in the arms and legs
  • Pain in your chest (angina)
  • Pain in your upper abdomen, arms, legs, and neck
  • Extreme fatigue

Please seek emergency care immediately if you are experiencing severe symptoms.


Many people living with diabetes can have an increased risk of suffering from infections. Diabetes can reduce your resistance to infections, most commonly pneumonia or influenza. 

This is because high blood sugar levels can reduce how well your immune system works.

Some of the most common infections include:11

  • UTIs -  When left untreated, these can cause kidney problems
  • Infections of the mouth, nose, and throat
  • Infections/wounds of soft tissue on the leg are known as diabetic foot ulcers - These can occur repeatedly in individuals with diabetes. However, they can be treated successfully.8

To prevent and control your risk of infections, it is important to stay up to date with vaccinations and have a flu vaccine each year to keep your immune levels high. Making healthy lifestyle choices with food, hygiene, and exercise, as well as taking prescribed diabetes medications as guided can help to control your blood sugar levels and keep your immune system working well.11 

Nerve Damage

As well as high blood sugar levels weakening your immune system, they can also damage your nerves. The onset of nerve damage, also known as peripheral neuropathy can be so slow that it can be undiagnosed for many years.8

Gradual nerve damage can eventually develop into diabetic neuropathy. Some of the symptoms of this condition include:8 

  • Numbness, or pain in the hands, feet, and legs
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Tingling or burning sensations in the hands and feet
  • Muscle weakness

To avoid developing peripheral neuropathy, it is important to have your feet checked once a year by your doctor or healthcare professional.1 

Kidney Problems 

Renal disease, also called nephropathy, is the gradual decline of kidney function. Diabetic nephropathy is an excess of protein present in the urine which is called proteinuria.8 

Kidneys filter the blood to remove waste and excess water. If you have diabetes, the blood vessels in the kidneys can be damaged by high blood glucose levels. High blood pressure can also damage the kidneys.

When the kidneys are damaged, waste products build up in the body which may cause many other issues. As infections are also more common with diabetes, there is a risk of UTIs causing kidney damage. Untreated or undiagnosed UTIs can cause kidney infections and these severe infections need long antibiotic courses to be treated.

To check for kidney disease and infections, healthcare professionals can carry out blood and urine tests to look at how efficiently your body is filtering waste products from the blood, as well as if there is albumin (a protein) in your urine. 

They may also utilise an A1C test, which specifically tracks your blood glucose levels over the last 3 months.15


Blindness - Retinopathy. As diabetes damages blood vessels due to high blood glucose levels, it can also damage blood vessels supplying the retina causing them not to work efficiently. 

Risk factors that reduce life expectancy

The risk factors for type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different. However, for both, the earlier the diagnosis, the fewer risks there are for complications and a reduced life expectancy.7

For type 1 diabetes, the risk factors are not well defined. It is thought that:

  • Family history and genetics play a role in the likelihood of developing diabetes and suffering from specific complications
  • A later diagnosis than the usual age of 10-14 can increase the risk of complications
  • Certain viral conditions during childhood play a role8

For type 2 diabetes, risk factors include:

  • Being overweight (an increased BMI)
  • Smoking
  • Age - The older you are, the more at risk you are for developing type 2 diabetes7
  • High blood pressure
  • History of gestational diabetes8
  • An unhealthy diet rich in fats, salts, and sugars
  • Limited/no physical activity

If you are at risk for diabetes and you are screened for the condition, you may be diagnosed with prediabetes. Prediabetes occurs before you develop diabetes, where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. 

It can be reversible depending on how well you can make lifestyle changes to better your health.1

To find out how at-risk you are, you can take the American Diabetes Association’s Risk Test.

Tips to increase life expectancy

One of the most important tips for increasing life expectancy as a person with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes is by focusing on lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Weight loss if you are considered obese
  • Eating a balanced diet containing fruit, vegetables, and protein with high fibre and low-fat content
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking regular blood tests to track your blood glucose levels
  • Take blood pressure checks
  • Stop smoking

Making these relatively simple changes to your lifestyle can vastly reduce symptoms, reverse prediabetes, and reduce the severity of type 2 diabetes. 

Please remember, if you have been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, follow the guidance given to you by your healthcare professional on how you should manage your diabetes. 

For further information on lifestyle changes, or preventing your prediabetes from developing into type 2 diabetes, you can access the National Diabetes Prevention Program here

To increase your life expectancy with type 1 diabetes, it is important to take your medications as directed, and to visit your doctor regularly for blood pressure checks and blood tests to ensure your diabetes is being managed correctly. 

Regular healthcare management

For type 1 diabetes, healthcare management primarily involves treatment with insulin, as well as lifestyle changes and general support for the condition. For people suffering from type 2 diabetes, insulin or tablets may be needed depending on the severity of the diabetes. Insulin is usually taken with a pump or by injection.1

Ensuring patients follow healthcare plans for prediabetics to return their glucose levels to normal ranges is also often provided for these individuals.8 

If you or somebody you know is not responding well to the typical treatments for their diabetes diagnosis, they may be suffering from a different type of diabetes. In this instance, it may be worth speaking to your GP about further tests or visiting an endocrinologist.7 


Please take care to remember that the information provided in this article covers a full range of side effects and complications of diabetes, not all of which will be applicable and many of which you are unlikely to suffer from. This is only an educational guide to diabetes and what factors and risks can influence life expectancy.

Diabetes can seem a daunting condition to be diagnosed with, but for type 1 and type 2 diabetes sufferers, the disease can be managed well with appropriate lifestyle changes, medications, and regular checkups.  

For any further guidance and support, please visit:


  1. NHS. Diabetes [Internet]; 2019. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/diabetes/
  2. Diabetes UK. 1 in 5 Cases of Type 1 Diabetes are Diagnosed in the over-40’s [Internet]; 2014. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/about_us/news/1-in-5-cases-of-diabetes-diagnosed-in-the-over-40s
  3. Forouhi NG, Wareham NJ. Epidemiology of Diabetes. Medicine; 2010; 38(11); 602-606. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1357303910002082
  4. BMJ. Type 1 diabetes still shortens life expectancy, Scottish study finds [Internet]; 2015. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h59
  5. Diabetes UK. Diabetes Life Expectancy [Internet]; 2022. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-life-expectancy.html
  6. Diabetes in the UK: Key Statistics on Diabetes [Internet]; 2010. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/resources-s3/2017-11/diabetes_in_the_uk_2010.pdf
  7. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Symptoms [Internet]; Available at: https://diabetes.org/diabetes/type-1/symptoms
  8. Deshpande AD, Harris-Hayes M, Schootman M. Epidemiology of Diabetes and Diabetes-related complications. Physical Therapy; 2008; 88(11); 1254-1264. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ptj/article/88/11/1254/2858146
  9. NHS. Cardiovascular disease [internet]; 2022. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cardiovascular-disease/
  10. American Diabetes Association. Cardiovascular Disease [Internet]; undated. Available from: https://diabetes.org/diabetes/cardiovascular-disease
  11. APIC. Diabetes, Infections and you [internet]; undated. Available from: https://apic.org/monthly_alerts/diabetes-infections-and-you/.
  12. Diabetes UK. Peripheral Neuropathy (Nerve Damage) [Internet]; undated. Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/nerves_neuropathy 
  13. Tönnies T, Baumert J, Heidemann C, von der Lippe E, Brinks R, Hoyer A. Diabetes free life expectancy and years of life lost associated with type 2 diabetes: projected trends in Germany between 2015 and 2040. Population Health Metrics; 2021; 19(38). Available from: https://pophealthmetrics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12963-021-00266-z
  14. Diabetes. Type 2 diabetes diagnosis before 40 increases early death risk, study reveals [Internet]; 2018. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/news/2018/mar/type-2-diabetes-diagnosis-before-40-increases-early-death-risk,-study-reveals-96490957.html.
  15. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Diabetic Kidney Disease [Internet]; 2017. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/diabetic-kidney-disease
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Laura Preece

BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences and MRes Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
I am a researcher and medical writer with a passion for pharmaceutics, disease and biological sciences. I am currently researching cellular and molecular biology, investigating the use of vitamin C as an adjunctive therapy for diabetes mellitus.

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