Summary: Disturbingly, researchers estimate that 40% of Americans alive today will develop type 2 diabetes, according to a study published in a top medical journal, The Lancet. [This article first appeared on the LongevityFacts.com website. Author: Brady Hartman. ]
40% of Americans Alive Today Will Get Diabetes
In a 2014 study published in the journal The Lancet, researchers estimated that two out of five Americans alive today will eventually develop type 2 diabetes. In conducting the study, researchers followed the medical records and death certificates of about 600,000 adults for a quarter of a century to forecast trends for lifetime risk of diabetes. The lead author on the study was Dr. Edward Gregg, chief of the epidemiology and statistics branch at the U.S. CDC. The Lancet study’s authors were shocked to find that predicted diabetes rates had nearly doubled in the last quarter century. Dr. Gregg himself remarked:
“…Ongoing diabetes and obesity epidemics have combined with ever-increasing human life spans to increase lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes to about 40 percent for both men and women,” adding “We weren’t necessarily surprised that it increased, but we didn’t expect it to increase this much.”
During the quarter-century period covered by the study, from 1985 and 2011, researchers were alarmed to find that the lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes nearly doubled – increasing from 21% in the late 1980’s to just over 40% in 2011 when computed for the average 20-year-old American man. For the average 20-year-old woman, the lifetime risk increased from 27 percent to almost 40 percent in the same period. The study predicted even worse odds for American minorities: half of the black women and half of Hispanic males and females will develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime.
The good news is that medical science has developed new treatments for type 2 diabetes and has more in the pipeline.
Reasons for Shocking Rise in The Disease
The Lancet study’s authors provided two grounds for the doubling of diabetes rates over the past quarter century a) Americans are living longer, which makes them more likely to develop diabetes at some point during their lives, and b) the epidemic of overweight and obesity.
Because type 2 diabetes rates increase with age, it is a rapidly growing problem among senior Americans. According to the CDC, of the Americans 65 and older, 26% currently have the condition.
An epidemic of overweight and obesity is plaguing the U.S. Being overweight or obese increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Body weight is a controllable risk factor.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
Some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes are beyond your control, including genetics and growing older. Thankfully, many risk factors are within your control. The controllable factors include being overweight or obese, a high fat / high sugar diet, and having prediabetes.
Risk Factors Beyond Our Control
- Genetics – If either of your parents has type 2 diabetes, it increases your risk of developing the disease by a fraction. Having other siblings or both parents with type 2 diabetes increases your risk even further. You can’t choose your parents. The only way to address this risk is by being proactive in preventing the disease and getting tested more often.
- Growing Older – As one grows older, the risk of type 2 diabetes increases, requiring one to work harder at prevention. Thankfully, nothing is being done to prevent Americans from growing older. The only way to address the increased risk is by getting tested more often and by being proactive in preventing the condition.
One In Four Unaware They Have Diabetes
Because they haven’t been tested, many people are unaware they have the disease. The CDC reports that 1 in 4 people with diabetes doesn’t know they have the disease. Walking around with untreated diabetes is hazardous to your health. A related article provides an online tool that assesses your risk for type 2 diabetes. By learning your status, and treating the disease, you can largely prevent the disease from unnecessarily damaging your health.
Reducing Diabetes Risk
In the press release accompanying the report, Dr. Gregg provided some tips for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
“The thing that’s going to have the biggest effect is if people with multiple risk factors can make sustained changes in their lifestyles,”
Dr. Gregg added:
“Weight-loss surgery is an option for some, and it is highly effective, but that’s not going to be the solution for the large number of people at risk for diabetes.”
Take Home Message
Research shows that diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications are the best ways to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes.
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Related Article Topics
- What everybody should know about prediabetes.
- Taking this early action may help avoid diabetes deadly effects.
- Steps to preventing type 2 diabetes.
- Could the drug metformin prevent diabetes?
- Could drinking coffee prevent type 2 diabetes?
- Potential breakthrough diabetes treatments on the shelf and in the pipeline.
Edward W Gregg, et al. Trends in lifetime risk and years of life lost due to diabetes in the USA, 1985–2011: a modelling study. 12 August 2014. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. Volume 2, Issue 11, 867 – 874. Link to article.
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