-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Diabetes now affects
nearly 26 million Americans of all ages and 79 million people have
what doctors call "prediabetes," according to 2011 estimates
released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prediabetes, which the CDC says affects 35 percent of adults, is
a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not
yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes greatly
boosts a person's odds for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and
The vast majority of cases of diabetes are type 2, which
develops when the body's cells gradually lose sensitivity to
According to experts, there's one very big reason for type 2
diabetes' continuing rise among Americans -- weight gain.
"The percentage of U.S. adults who are overweight or obese has also risen dramatically, and there is no doubt that rising rates of obesity are linked to the rising rates of diabetes," said Dr. Christine Resta, an expert on diabetes in the division of endocrinology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City.
But changes in the way doctors diagnose the illness may have
played a role in rising numbers, too, another expert said.
"One of the reasons the incidence of diabetes has been increasing in the last few years is because the American Diabetes Association lowered the guidelines for diabetes diagnosis," explained Dr. Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "Last year, the ADA recommended using [hemoglobin] A1c levels to diagnose both diabetes and prediabetes. This change in criteria resulted in a great increase of the number of patients with this diagnosis. The decision to change the criteria remains controversial, but the guidelines to increase exercise and decrease carbohydrate intake are valid."
In their report, the CDC agreed that the switch to hemoglobin
A1c testing -- which measures levels of blood glucose (sugar) over
a period of two to three months -- could help account for at least
some of the rising numbers.
But the CDC's National Diabetes Fact Sheet for 2011 also notes
that about 27 percent of Americans with diabetes, or about 7
million people, still do not know they have the disease. Among the
other data included in the fact sheet:
The 2011 diabetes incidence estimates mark a continued rise. In
2008, for example, the CDC estimated that 23.6 million Americans
(7.8 percent) had diabetes and 57 million adults had
Besides the obesity epidemic and the switch to A1c-based
diagnosis, the agency said that improvements in diabetes management
may mean that many people with the disease are living longer,
raising the total number affected.
Still, "these distressing numbers show how important it is to
prevent type 2 diabetes and to help those who have diabetes manage
the disease to prevent serious complications such as kidney failure
and blindness," Ann Albright, director of CDC's Division of
Diabetes Translation, said in an agency news release.
"We know that a structured lifestyle program that includes losing weight and increasing physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes," she added.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United
States and now costs $174 billion a year, including $116 billion in
direct medical expenses, according to the CDC. People with diabetes
are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, high blood
pressure, kidney failure, blindness and amputation of feet and
"With more patients, there are more costs. But even the cost per patient has gone up," Resta said. "Newer diabetes medications are expensive, often 10 times the cost of older generic medicines. When patients are diagnosed younger, they are more likely to eventually require multiple diabetes medications, which also drives up costs. Also, the longer the duration of diabetes, the more likely the patient is to have [expensive] complications."
If current trends continue, as many as one in three American
adults could have diabetes by 2050, predicted a CDC study published
The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
outlines how you can
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