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Aging and disease    2015, Vol. 6 Issue (4) : 262-270     DOI: 10.14336/AD.2014.1022
Review Article |
Low HbA1c and Increased Mortality Risk-is Frailty a Confounding Factor?
H Abdelhafiz Ahmed1,*, J Sinclair Alan2
1Consultant Physician and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Department of Elderly Medicine, Rotherham General Hospital, Rotherham, S60 2UD, UK
2Dean and Professor of Medicine, Institute of Diabetes for Older People (IDOP), Bedfordshire &, Hertfordshire Postgraduate Medical School, University of Luton, Puteridge Bury Campus, Bedfordshire, LU2 8LE, UK
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Diabetes mellitus is increasingly becoming an older person disease due to the increased survival and aging of the population. Previous studies which showed benefits of tight glycemic control and a linear relationship between HbA1c and mortality have largely included younger patients newly diagnosed with diabetes and with less comorbidities. Recent studies, which included older population with diabetes, have shown a U-shaped relationship of increased mortality associated with low HbA1c. The mechanism of such relationship is unclear. There was no direct causal link between low HbA1c and mortality. It appears that malnutrition, inflammation and functional decline are characteristics shared by the populations that showed increased mortality and low HbA1c. In these studies functional status, disability or frailty was not routinely measured. Therefore, although adjustment for comorbidities was made there may be a residual confounding by unmeasured factors such as frailty. Thus, frailty or decline in functional reserve may be the main confounding factor explaining the relationship between increased mortality risk and low HbA1c.

Keywords Frailty      Mortality      Diabetes      Low HbA1c     
Corresponding Authors: H Abdelhafiz Ahmed   
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present address: Kunming Biomed International, Kunming, Yunnan, 650500, China

Issue Date: 01 August 2015
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H Abdelhafiz Ahmed,J Sinclair Alan. Low HbA1c and Increased Mortality Risk-is Frailty a Confounding Factor?[J]. Aging and disease, 2015, 6(4): 262-270.
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StudyDesignPopulationCut off HbA1c*Characteristics of patients with low HbA1c
Engoren et al, 2013ProspectiveDiabetics undergoing heart surgery5.7%Older, having myocardial infarctions, smokers, needed blood transfusions, and concomitant valve surgery.
Aguilar et al, 2009RetrospectiveDiabetics with heart failure6.4%Older, have chronic kidney disease, anemia and low cholesterol
Nichols et al, 2013, USProspectiveDiabetics6%Older, more macrovascular complications, lower body mass index and lower blood pressure.
Currie et al, 2010, UKRetrospectiveDiabetics6.4%Insulin treated, older, more comorbidities and longer duration of diabetes.
Nicholas et al, 20Case-controlDiabetics6.5%More prevalence of vascular disease, renal failure, malnutrition, smoking and weight loss.
Monami et al, 2013Case-controlDiabetics6.5%Insulin-treated, older, longer duration of diabetes and more comorbidity burden.
Colayco et al, 2011Case-controlDiabetics6.4%More prevalence of cardiovascular comorbidities.
Carson, et al 2010ProspectiveGeneral population4.0%Low cholesterol, high ferritin, low blood pressure and abnormal liver function.
Shurraw et al, 2011ProspectiveDiabetics with CKD6.5Older, high level of heart, lung, liver diseases, malignancy and dementia.
Ricks et al, 2012ProspectiveDiabetics on hemodialysis6.9Low body weight and increased markers of malnutrition and inflammation.
Table 1  Summary of observational studies reporting increased mortality with low HbA1c
Figure 1.  Frailty and comorbidities as confounders and low HbA1c and other biochemical factors as markers of increased mortality.
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