Diabetes rates are soaring across the United States, upping the nation's collective risk of complications like blindness and nerve damage and underscoring the need for effective treatment that works quickly.
Two years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 19 million people in the country had diagnosed diabetes (mostly of the type 2 variety); another 7 million went undiagnosed. Over the past two decades, the agency writes in the Nov. 16 edition of its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the prevalence of the disease has risen across the board, regardless of age, gender and ethnicity.
L.A. County recently released data which indicates the disease is hitting Angelenos hard: Nearly one in 10 county residents has the disease, with prevalence rates as high as 16.2 percent in East Los Angeles. South L.A. had the third-highest prevalence rate in the county, with 11.7 percent having the condition, marking a 2-percent increase between 1997 and 2011.
The CDC found similarly worrisome prevalence rates among the U.S. as a whole: 8.2 percent of adults have the disease, marking a nearly 82-percent jump in 15 years.
In 1995, only three states and Washington, D.C. had a diabetes rate that was 6 percent or higher; that's now the case with every single state. Since then, the diabetes rate in 42 states has gone up by at least 50 percent, and has at least doubled in 18.
California wasn't the best in the country when it came to diabetes rates, but it wasn't the worst either: With 8.6 percent of its residents qualifying as diabetics, the Golden State beat out places like Alabama (11.3 percent) and Mississippi (11.7 percent), but lost to places like Oregon (6.6 percent) and South Dakota (6 percent).
The median increase in diabetes rates between 1995 and 2010 was just over 82 percent, ranging from an 8.5-percent uptick in Puerto Rico to a whopping 226.7-percent increase in Oklahoma.
If there's any good news in the CDC's report, it's this: Researchers believe the upswing in diabetes is, in part, "likely the result of improved survival of persons with diabetes." (Also: More cases of diabetes.) But "mortality among U.S. adults with diabetes declined substantially" in the time period the CDC studied, the agency wrote, "and at a faster rate than among adults without diabetes." Experts attribute that to fewer complications and better treatment and medical care.
As for why diabetes rates are going up, the CDC says there could be a number of reasons: changes in the process of diagnosing the disease, better detection, an aging population, a growing minority population (who are at higher risk) and an increase in diabetes risk factors, like obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
It's more crucial than ever, said the agency, to come up with solutions that "target the entire population and high-risk groups" and help manage and, maybe more importantly, prevent the condition.
Photo by Heather Aitken via Flickr Creative Commons.