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Diabetes reaches epidemic proportions in the country

The number of Americans with diabetes has increased more than three million since 2010 according to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report released Tuesday. In 2012 alone, 1.7 million were diagnosed with the disease. Of the more than 29 million people with diabetes, a quarter are unaware they have the disease. There currently is no cure for diabetes.

Senior man using glucometer: Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level helps people with diabetes stay healthy.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control

An additional 86 million people have prediabetes — fasting glucose levels between 100 and 125 mg/dl. Glucose levels between 70–99 mg/dl are considered normal. Undiagnosed cases are determined by counting people without a history of diabetes who have a fasting blood glucose level greater than or equal to 126 mg/dl.

Diabetes can lead to serious health complications including kidney failure, heart disease, blindness, amputations and premature death. Total medical costs and costs of lost work and wages in the country due to diabetes have increased from $174 billion in 2007 to $245 billion in 2012. Blacks, Hispanics and American Indian/Alaska Native adults are twice as likely as whites to develop diabetes, the report found.

“Now is the time to take action. 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. We simply can’t sustain this trajectory – the implications are far too great – for our families, our healthcare system, our workforce, our nation.” — Ann Albright, PhD, RD - Director, Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90–95 percent of all cases, can be controlled with healthy eating, exercise, weight control and oral medications. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity, older age and a family history of the disease. This type of diabetes develops as the pancreas gradually loses the ability to produce enough insulin necessary to metabolize sugars in the blood.

Symptoms of diabetes include sudden weight loss, excessive thirst, extreme hunger, frequent urination and failure of sores to heal quickly. A fasting blood glucose test, administered after eight hours of fasting, is the most common method used to make a diagnoses of diabetes or prediabetes. Type 2 diabetes screening is one of the preventative services health insurance companies must cover at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.

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