According to the new report, 1.7 million people aged 20 and older were diagnosed with diabetes in 2012. Blacks, Hispanics and American Indian/Alaska Native adults are about twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes as white adults, the CDC found.
Making matters worse, another 86 million American adults have what doctors call “prediabetes. ” This means their blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes, the CDC said. Without taking measures such as weight loss and increased exercise, 15 percent to 30 percent of people with prediabetes typically develops into type 2 diabetes within five years. Currently, around 39% of blacks are prediabetic.
This means, essentially, that nearly 120 million Americans are dealing with some aspect of diabetes, which is more than a third of the entire U.S. population.
“These new numbers are alarming, and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country,” Ann Albright, director of CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, said in an agency news release.
Diabetes falls into two main categories: type 1, an autoimmune illness which is often inherited and involves a dysfunction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas; and type 2, which develops over time and is tied closely to obesity. Between 90 percent and 95 percent of diabetes cases are of the type 2 variety, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Diabetes is striking more people at a younger age as well. Among Americans younger than age 20, 208,000 have already been diagnosed with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, according to the report, which is based on health data from 2012.
At the same time, total medical costs and lost work and wages associated with diabetes and its complications rose from $174 billion in 2007 to $245 billion in 2012.
Left untreated, diabetes boosts the risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, vision loss, kidney failure, limb amputation and premature death. Diabetes can be managed through physical activity, diet and the use of insulin and medications to lower blood sugar levels.
It’s also important for diabetes patients to take steps to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, the CDC said.