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CDC: 26 Million Americans Have Diabetes

Analysis Shows Many in U.S. Aren't Even Aware They Have Diabetes

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 26, 2011 -- The CDC says about 26 million adult Americans have diabetes and that 79 million more have prediabetes, a condition that raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not so high as to result in a diagnosis of diabetes.

"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, PhD, RD, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, says in a news release. "We know that a structured lifestyle program that includes losing weight and increasing physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes."

The report says 8.3% of Americans of all ages and 11.3% of adults aged 20 and older are affected by diabetes. What's more, about 27% of Americans with diabetes, or about 7 million people, do not know they have the disease.

About 35% of adults age 20 and over have prediabetes.

Diabetes Cases Rising

The number of people with diabetes is apparently rising, according to the CDC. It says that in 2008, about 23.6 million Americans, or 7.8% of the population, had diabetes and 57 million more had prediabetes.

The CDC's new report says one reason more people have diabetes is that people are living longer with the disease. Better management of diabetes is improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and reducing such complications as amputations and kidney failure.

The CDC says as many as third of U.S. adults could have diabetes by the year 2050 if current trends don't change.

According to the CDC, type 2 diabetes, in which the body gradually loses its ability to use insulin, accounts for 90% to 95% of diabetes cases. Risk factors include obesity, family history, older age, sedentary lifestyles, race, ethnicity, and having had gestational diabetes, which only occurs during pregnancy.

Groups at greatest risk include African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians and Alaska natives, and some Asian-Americans and Pacific islanders.

A Costly Disease

A new fact sheet from the CDC says:

  • Most cases of diabetes among children and adolescents are type 1, once called juvenile diabetes. This disease develops when the body can't make insulin.
  • About 215,000 Americans under age 20 have diabetes.
  • In 2010, about 1.9 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Diabetes rates were 16.1% for American Indians and Alaska natives, 12.6% for blacks, 11.8% for Hispanics, 8.4% for Asian Americans, and 7.1% for whites.
  • Half of Americans 65 and older have prediabetes and 27% have diabetes.

The CDC says diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and that those with the disease are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, blindness, and to need amputations of feet and legs. The disease costs the country $174 billion a year.

The CDC says people with prediabetes can sometimes prevent or delay development of a diabetes diagnosis by increasing their physical activity and losing weight.

In addition to well-known health problems caused by diabetes, periodontal disease also is more common in people with diabetes. About one-third of people with diabetes have severe periodontal disease, according to the CDC fact sheet.

SOURCES: News release, CDC.National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011.

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