At the Heart of Diabetes

Posted 2/12/2013 by Nebraska Medicine

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The prevalence of diabetes in the United States is continuing to increase.

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 8 percent of the U.S. population, or 25.8 million people, have diabetes and another 79 million people are pre-diabetic. Of the nearly 26 million people who have diabetes, 7 million of them are undiagnosed.

Andjela Drincic, MD, endocrinologist said the recent data is alarming.

“It is estimated about a quarter of the population go undiagnosed,” Drincic said. “That’s a lot of people who are at risk for serious complications of the disease. The problem with diabetes is frequently people are not diagnosed with it until they have complications.”

Diabetes can result in causing blindness, kidney failure, amputation and heart attacks.

According to Drincic, major risk factors for diabetes are age and weight.

“People 45 years of age and older should be screened for diabetes,” she advised. “The second thing is weight. People with a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or higher should also be screened.”

Drincic added that other people who should be screened for diabetes include anyone who has a family history of it, people of high-risk ethnicity groups such as African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders; people with high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure and women with a history of gestational diabetes.

One thing people can do to help prevent or delay diabetes is adjust to or continue a healthy lifestyle.

“In today’s society, we’re so used to taking a pill to fix everything that we underestimate the power of such a simple thing as a healthy lifestyle,” Drincic said. “Weight loss of about 7 percent and moderate physical activity such as walking briskly 150 minutes a week are very powerful in prevention of diabetes.”

So, what if you are diagnosed with diabetes?

“If you are diagnosed, the bad news is you have diabetes. The good news is that there is much you can do with good medications,” Drincic said. “If you keep your blood sugar under control, keep cholesterol and blood pressure at goal, stay physically active and don’t smoke then complications can largely be prevented. If you take medications and take care of yourself, you can live a healthy life.” 

Diabetes by the Numbers

  • 25.8 million, or 8.3%, of the United States' population have diabetes
  • Of that 25.8 million, 7 million of those people are undiagnosed
  • 1.9 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in people 20 and older in 2010
  • In 2007, diabetes was listed as the underlying cause on 71,382 death certificates
  • $174 billion: Total costs of diagnosed diabetes in the United States in 2007
  • $116 billion for direct medical costs
  • $58 billion for indirect costs (disability, work loss, premature mortality)

(Statistics from the American Diabetes Association's 2011 National Data Fact Sheet that is jointly produced by the CDC, NIH, ADA and other organizations)


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