Mean HbA, HbA variability, and mortality in people with diabetes aged 70 years and older: a retrospective cohort study.

Forbes, Angus Murrells, Trevor Mulnier, Henrietta Sinclair, Alan J


06 August 2018

This is a good paper in a topically relevant area. My only concern is that we already know about the effect of treatments in people with high and low HbA1c, so it is the effect of glycaemic variability in this elderly population that is most interesting. This study used a relatively novel approach for measuring glycaemic variability by weighting for clinically significantly changes in HbA1c (>=0.5%). I would have liked to see more information about this and recommendations to help clinicians to identify patients at risk of mortality.




Mean HbA, HbA variability, and mortality in people with diabetes aged 70 years and older: a retrospective cohort study.


Glycaemic targets for older people have been revised in recent years because of concern that more stringent targets are associated with increased mortality. We aimed to investigate the association between glycaemic control (mean HbA) and variability (variability of HbA over time) and mortality in older people with diabetes.

We did a 5-year retrospective cohort study using The Health Improvement Network database, which includes data from 587 UK primary care practices. We included patients of either sex who were aged 70 years and older with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The primary outcome was time to all-cause mortality. Our primary exposure variables were mean HbA and variability of HbA over time. The observation included a 4-year run-in period (from 2003) as a baseline, with a 5-year follow-up (from 2007 to 2012). We assessed mean HbA in three models: a baseline mean HbA for 2003-06 (model 1), the mean across the whole follow-up period (model 2), and a time-varying yearly updated mean (model 3). A variability score (from 0 [low] to 100 [high]) was calculated on the basis of number of changes in HbA of 0·5% (5·5 mmol/mol) or more from 2003 to 2012 or to the point of mortality, based on changes in the annual mean as per each model with a minimum of six readings.

The cohort consisted of 54 803 people, of whom 17 680 (8614 [30·7%] of 28 017 women and 9066 [33·8%] of 26 786 men) died during the observation period. The overall mortality rate was 77 per 1000 person-years (73 per 1000 person-years for women and 80 per 1000 person-years for men). The data showed a J-shaped distribution for mortality risk in both sexes, with significant increases with HbA values greater than 8% (64 mmol/mol) and less than 6% (42 mmol/mol), although excess mortality risk was non-significant in model 1 for men at HbA values of 8% (64 mmol/mol) to less than 8·5% (<69 mmol/mol) and in models 1 and 3 for both sexes assessed individually at HbA values less than 6% (42 mmol/mol). Mortality increased substantially with increasing HbA variability in all models (overall and for both sexes). For the model 2 HbA measure, the adjusted hazard ratios comparing patients with a glycaemic variability score of more than 80 to 100 with those with a score of 0 to 20 were 2·47 (95% CI 2·08-2·93) for women and 2·21 (1·87-2·61) for men. Fitting the mean HbA models with the glycaemic variability score altered the risk distribution; this observation was most marked in the model 2 analysis, in which a significant increased risk was only apparent with HbA values greater than 9·5% (80 mmol/mol) in women and 9% (75 mmol/mol) in men.

Both low and high levels of glycaemic control were associated with an increased mortality risk, and the level of variability also seems to be an important factor, suggesting that a stable glycaemic level in the middle range is associated with lower risk. Glycaemic variability, as assessed by variability over time in HbA, might be an important factor in understanding mortality risk in older people with diabetes.

King's College London and Diabetes Frail.


Forbes, Angus Murrells, Trevor Mulnier, Henrietta Sinclair, Alan J


The lancet. Diabetes & endocrinology