Why More Americans Need to Be Aware of the Danger of Diabetes

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tuesday signals an alarming, upward trend regarding diabetes in America. “If these numbers continue to rise, 1 in 5 people could have diabetes by the year 2025, and it could be 1 in 3 people by the year 2050,” Ann Albright, PhD, RD, Director, Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, stated in a press release. “We simply can’t sustain this trajectory – the implications are far too great – for our families, our healthcare system, our workforce, our nation.” A total of 1.7 million new cases were diagnosed in the past year.

Who is diabetic in America?

There are 29.1 million people (9.3 percent of the population) with diabetes in America, and increase of roughly 3 million since 2010. Worse yet, people with this range of insulin-affecting diseases may be unaware they are suffering from a health condition. According to the latest National Diabetes Statistics Report, the majority (21 million) of cases have been diagnosed, but another 8.1 million (or 27.8 percent) of people with diabetes remain undiagnosed.

In a snapshot of who is diabetic in America, the CDC data indicates that American Indians/Alaska Natives comprise 15.9 percent of diabetics in the U.S. 20 years of age or older. This is the largest group, followed by non-Hispanic blacks (13.2 percent), and Hispanics (12.8 percent). Asian Americans (9 percent) and Non-Hispanic whites (7.6 percent) had the lowest numbers reported in the demographic data. The highest percentage of people with diabetes are 65 or older, but the most cases (13.4 million) occur in people between 45 and 64.

The data reflects information for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes; the American Diabetes Association explains the difference between the two form. Type 1 diabetes normally affects children and young adults. Insulin is not produced by the body, meaning sugars and starches are not converted into energy. Type 2 diabetes is the more common form, and occurs when the body does not use insulin properly. As a result, sugar (glucose) levels are elevated to a higher than normal level.

The cost of not knowing

Before a person is diagnosed type 2 diabetes, that are considered prediabetic. When a person has prediabetes, their blood glucose is above normal, but not so high that they would be diagnosed as diabetic. This portion of the population is at a greater risk for both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The CDC data reveals, they are also highly unaware of their health risks. While an estimated one in three Americans are prediabetic, nine out of ten are unaware this is the case. Between 15 and 30 percent of prediabetics could develop type 2 diabetes within five years if they do not take steps to change their lifestyle.

Conscious efforts to adapt healthier habits is difficult when you are unaware you are at risk for developing diabetes, and the reason so many people do not realize they are prediabetic is because by and large, prediabetes is a condition without any symptoms. Like individuals with diabetes, prediabetics are open to the same health complications such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, stroke, and the loss of limbs (toes, feet, or legs). Other diseases can develop when a person has diabetes, including nerve disease, gum disease, depression, and for women there can be complications during pregnancy as well. Diabetes also increases a person’s risk of death by 50 percent.

In addition to the physical and mental tolls diabetes creates, there is a fiscal aspect as well. In 2012, a person with diabetes spent, on average, 2.3 times more on medical expenditures than a person who does not have diabetes did. The overall estimated costs of diabetes is $245 billion, a number that takes into account direct (medical bills) and indirect (lost work) costs.

Taking action

The report and corresponding statistics are a pressing reminder that more can, and needs to be done. “These new numbers are alarming and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country,” Albright stated. “Diabetes is costly in both human and economic terms. It’s urgent that we take swift action to effectively treat and prevent this serious disease.”

On a personal level, people can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by changing their habits. Albright called making healthier choices, “the most effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes and improve health for people already diagnosed with diabetes.” She added that this was a vital step, along with learning about diabetes, and finding encouragement and support in their communities. According to the ADA, a person who loses 7 percent of their body weight can, and engaging in moderate exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent.

Weight loss can also aid people who have type 2 diabetes. An observational study from Sweden published Wednesday in The Journal of American Medicine found that overweight patients with type 2 diabetes who underwent weight loss surgery “was associated with more frequent diabetes remission and fewer complications than usual care.”

This is an important finding according to Dr. James McGinty, chief of the division of minimally invasive and baratric surgery at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai Roosevelt Hospitals, in New York City. McGinty, was not involved in the research, but discussed the findings with Health Day. “This important study demonstrates what many of us in weight-loss surgery have suspected for years: That for those who are suffering from diabetes and severe obesity, weight-loss surgery and a healthy lifestyle works better to control these diseases than medical care alone,” McGinty stated.

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