Diabetes rates continue to climb

Prediabetes numbers are also up, suggesting that the situation could get worse.

By Susan J. Landers — Posted Feb. 10, 2009

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The number of people who have diabetes in the United States continues to rise at an alarming rate. A new federal study found nearly 13% of adults age 20 and older have the disease.

Estimates made last June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed the tally at nearly 8% of the U.S. population.

The new study also found about 40% of people with diabetes have not been diagnosed and are thus at heightened risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. This risk could be lessened if their disease were diagnosed and controlled.

The quest to conquer the obesity epidemic and the resulting increase in diabetes has been a major concern for physician organizations, including the American Medical Association.

The new numbers are from a study conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the CDC. The report appears in the February Diabetes Care, a publication of the American Diabetes Assn. (link).

The data examined were from the 2005-06 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which gathered information using a fasting blood glucose test and a two-hour glucose reading from an oral glucose tolerance test.

"For years diabetes prevalence estimates have been based mainly on data that included a fasting glucose test but not an OGTT," said lead author Catherine Cowie, PhD, director of the Diabetes Epidemiology program at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

But the OGTT is more sensitive in identifying diabetes and prediabetes, especially among older people, the researchers said.

The researchers also found that diabetes is especially common among the elderly and that nearly one-third of people 65 and older have the disease.

Plus, an additional 30% of adults were discovered to have prediabetes. "We're facing a diabetes epidemic that shows no signs of abating, judging from the number of individuals with prediabetes," Cowie said.

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