The Diabetes Epidemic

You are enjoying a meal at a fabulous restaurant. There are 200 people in the room. How many people in that room have diabetes?

Would it surprise you to know that you are sharing a meal with 18 people with diabetes? No? Then maybe it would surprise you to learn that five of those 18 people don't yet know they have diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, as of 2012, 29.1 million Americans had diabetes. Of those 29.1 million, 8 million didn't know they had diabetes.

Diabetes and the Government

Every other year the U.S. government compiles statistics on diabetes. The goal is to monitor trends, ensure that sufficient resources are allotted to treatment, and utilize the information to create public awareness campaigns.

Arguably, the most effective source for the sort of mass education that would be necessary to fight an epidemic this size would be the government. They are large enough to have the resources to sponsor the research and gather the statistics. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) oversees the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The also oversee the National Eye Institute and the National Aging Institute, among others. This network of research works together to coordinate an approach to improving public health and reducing the impact of diabetes on the populace and on the economy.

Diabetes by the Numbers

The number of cases of diabetes continues to grow. 2012 is the most recent completed analysis of where we stand with this epidemic, and those figures show a greater percentage of the population developing Type 2 diabetes over previous periods.

In 2010, for instance, 25.8 million Americans, or 8.3 percent of the population, had diabetes. In 2012 that figure had risen to 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population.

For adults 20 years or older, the 2012 prevalence rate was 12.3 percent, an increase from the 11.3 percent rate in 2010.

For seniors 65 years or older, there was a small improvement, as the 2010 rate of 26.9 percent of seniors with diabetes dropped to 25.9 percent in 2012.

Undiagnosed diabetes remains a serious issue. In 2012, with 3.3 million additional persons with diabetes over 2010, an additional 1.1 million were undiagnosed.

Pre-diabetes is another growing issue. The 2010 figure of 79 million Americans 20 years or older with pre-diabetes increased to 86 million in 2012. The 2012 percentage of pre-diabetes diagnoses among those 65 years or older is a staggering 51 percent.

What hasn’t changed is the fact that diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. This probably understates the real number of deaths from diabetes, as many deaths due to diabetes are listed instead as due to one of the many comorbidities of diabetes.

For those under the age of 20, the primary type of diabetes remains Type 1 diabetes. The comparison between 2010 and 2012 figures is nearly unchanged, with 0.25 percent in 2012 and 0.26 percent in 2010.

There has been a modest increase in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes in this younger population, from 19 percent reported in 2010 to 22 percent in 2012.

Sources: American Diabetes Association

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