According to a recent study, diabetes prevalence has increased significantly in recent years, more than half of U.S. adults suffering from the condition or being at risk of acquiring it.
The study, based on surveys conducted between 1988-1994 and 1999-2012, was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and it suggests that the disease is much more widespread that previously thought.
Around 40% of American adults were prediabetics, while 12-14% were full-blown diabetics, between 2011 and 2012, which is an increase of 27% from the numbers reported between 1984 and 1994. Among those who already had the condition , 36.4% had not been diagnosed.
Based on another study by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of diabetes was higher among Latin Americans (22.6%), African-Americans (21.8%) and Asian-Americans(20.6%), and these categories were also more likely to be undiagnosed (approximately half of the cases).
The percentage of white participants affected by diabetes was visibly lower, at 11.3%. This racial discrepancy could be caused by hereditary factors, diet, healthcare access and cultural traditions.
The metabolic disorder has been affecting more and more people in recent years: between 1988 and 1994 9.8% of the population suffered from diabetes, while in 2001-2002 around 10.8% were reported as diabetics. On the other hand, the number of undiagnosed diabetics has dropped by 23% between the two periods, probably due to wider access to health care and increased awareness.
It is believed therefore that the upward trend in diabetes has reached a plateau, which is ”consistent with obesity trends in the United States showing a leveling off around the same period”.
Diabetes is a condition whose main sign is a significant increase in blood sugar levels (more than 126mg/dl during fasting), due to lack of production of insulin which normally lowers such values (type 1) or due to insulin resistance (type 2), determined by obesity, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet.
Pre-diabetes represents a stage where individuals already have relatively high blood sugar levels (between 100-125 mg/dl) and they are likely to develop diabetes.
Once a person is affected by this metabolic condition, the complications include blood vessel damage, eye and kidney disease, impaired wound healing, and necrotizing soft tissue infections.
According to statistics made public by the American Diabetes Association, approximately 71,000 diabetes patients die annually due to serious health issues related to the condition. Diabetes is also extremely costly to manage: in 2012, $245 billion accounted for health care costs and productivity loss associated with it.
Overall, recent study results indicate that although the number of diabetes patients has been growing, the pace of new cases has been slowing down, which suggests people are paying more attention to their diets and changing their sedentary lifestyles.
However, awareness of the implications of this condition should still be raised, and more screenings should be conducted, in order to curb the prevalence of diabetes once and for all.
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