The National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014, released recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has found that more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes, up from the previous estimate of 26 million in 2010. Significantly, one in four people, according to the report, may not know that they have the disease.
Diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose. Diabetes may result from an inability to produce sufficient insulin – a hormone that regulates glucose uptake by tissue – or by an inability to respond to the insulin that the body produces. Diabetes can lead to serious and even life-threatening health problems, including vision loss, amputations (most commonly of toes, fingers or limbs), heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.
Ninety to ninety five percent of people with diabetes have type 2, which usually starts as the inability to respond normally to the insulin the body produces but later can progress to an inability to make enough insulin. People with this form of diabetes may initially take daily oral medications to treat diabetes but may ultimately have to take supplemental insulin by injection or by using an insulin pump.
The CDC report also indicates that 86 million adults – more than one in three U.S. adults – have pre-diabetes, which means that their blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. Unless they make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and getting moderate exercise, 15 to 30 percent of people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within five years, according to the report.
"These new numbers are alarming and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country," says Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.
Additional key findings from the report (which is based on 2012 data) include:
- 1.7 million people aged 20 years or older were newly diagnosed with diabetes in 2012.
- 208,000 people younger than 20 years have been diagnosed with diabetes (type 1 or type 2).
- African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native adults are about twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes as Caucasian adults.
- The percentage of U.S. adults with pre-diabetes is similar for Caucasians, African Americans, and Hispanics (35, 39 and 38 percent, respectively).
A fasting blood glucose (FBG) test, an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), or an A1c test may be used to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes. While symptoms of diabetes can include blurred vision, extreme thirst, and excessive urination, diabetes often occurs without a person experiencing any symptoms at all. Therefore, the American Diabetes Association recommends that people age 45 and older be screened at least every three years. People may be screened at a younger age and more frequently if they have certain risk factors, such as:
- Lack of exercise
- Family history of diabetes (parent or sibling with diabetes)
- Ethnicity: African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander
- Gestational diabetes during pregnancy or delivering a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds
- High blood pressure or taking medication for high blood pressure
- High triglycerides, high cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol
Although genetics can influence the development of type 2 diabetes, it is also associated with excess weight, lack of exercise, and a poor diet. Therefore, losing weight, getting regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can all help prevent diabetes, or help control diabetes if it is diagnosed.
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 29 million Americans have diabetes; 1 in 4 doesn't know. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0610-diabetes-report.html through http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed June 23, 2014
American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes – 2012. Diabetes Care. Available online at http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/35/Supplement_1/S11.full.pdf+html through http://care.diabetesjournals.org. Published January 2012. Accessed June 24, 2014.
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Screening for Prediabetes. Available online at http://outpatient.aace.com/prediabetes/screening-and-monitoring-prediabetes through http://outpatient.aace.com. Accessed June 23, 2014.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Adults. Available online at http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsdiab.htm#summary through http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org. Published June 2008. Accessed June 23, 2014.
American Diabetes Association. Are You At Risk? Available online at http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/?loc=atrisk-slabnav through http://www.diabetes.org. Accessed June 24, 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014. Available online at http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14.htm through http://www.cdc.gov. Accesses June 23, 2014.
Harvard School of Public Health. Simple Steps to Preventing Diabetes. Available online at http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/preventing-diabetes-full-story/ through http://www.hsph.harvard.edu. Accessed June 25, 2014.