People with diabetes are living longer, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Between 1997 and 2004, the percentage of people with diabetes who died from any cause dropped 23 percent, and the percentage of people who died from heart disease or stroke dropped 40 percent, the report says.

Improved treatments for heart disease, better management of diabetes and healthy lifestyle changes contributed to the decline in death rates, the researchers said. People with diabetes were less likely to smoke and more likely to be physically active than in the past.

"Taking care of your heart through healthy lifestyle choices is making a difference," said Ann Albright, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.

However, obesity rates among people with diabetes continued to increase.

The researchers analyzed information from nearly 250,000 U.S. adults with and without diabetes. Participants were asked whether a doctor or other health professional had ever told them they had diabetes; whether participants had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes was not specified.

Although adults with diabetes are more likely to die younger than those who do not have the disease, the gap is narrowing. Currently, diabetes is estimated to contribute to an extra two deaths from heart disease per 1,000 people, and an extra six deaths from any cause per 1,000 people, the report said.

Because people with diabetes are living longer, and the rate of new cases being diagnosed is increasing, scientists expect that the total number of people with the disease will continue to rise, the CDC says.

The number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled since 1980, primarily due to increases in the number of people with Type 2 diabetes, which is closely linked to a rise in obesity, inactivity and older age. The CDC estimates that 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, and 7 million of them do not know they have the disease.

"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 study researcher Edward Gregg, chief of epidemiology and statistics in CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

The study was published on May 22 in the journal Diabetes Care.

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