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Who Gets Diabetes and How It Can Be Prevented

There are age, gender, racial and ethnic factors in who gets the disease

By Center for Disease Control and Prevention | May 21, 2012

The number of Americans with diabetes continues to increase, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent National Diabetes Fact Sheet.

So does the number of Americans with prediabetes, a condition that increases their risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The National Diabetes Fact Sheet, 2011, provides data on how many Americans have diabetes, as well as information on age, racial and ethnic differences in diabetes, and on complications of the disease.

Below are some highlights from the fact sheet.

Diabetes affects 8.3 percent of all Americans and 11.3 percent of adults age 20 and older. Some 27 percent of people with diabetes — 7 million Americans — do not know they have the disease. In 2010, 1.9 million Americans received a diagnosis of diabetes.

Prediabetes affects 35 percent of adults age 20 and older, and half of Americans age 65 and older. Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal, but not high enough doe a diabetes diagnosis.

The CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue. Type 2 diabetes, in which the body gradually loses its ability to use and produce insulin, accounts for 90 to 95 percent of cases. Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, having diabetes while pregnant, a sedentary lifestyle and race/ethnicity.

Age, Gender, Racial and Ethnic Differences in Diabetes

Diabetes is more likely to affect older Americans, although there are Americans of all ages with the disease. Almost 27 percent of people age 65 years and older had diabetes in 2010. About 215,000 people younger than 20 years have diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2). This represents 0.26 percent of all people in this age group.

As in previous years, disparities exist among ethnic groups and minority populations including Native Americans, blacks and Hispanics. Rates of diagnosed diabetes include:

  • Native Americans and Alaska Natives (16.1 percent).
  • Blacks (12.6 percent).
  • Hispanics (11.8 percent).
Among Hispanics, rates include:
  • Puerto Ricans (13.8 percent).
  • Mexican Americans (13.3 percent).
  • Cubans and Central and South Americans (7.6 percent).
Women who develop diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes) have a 35 to 60 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes in the next 10 to 20 years.

Complications from Diabetes
  • Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death and can lead to permanent disability and poor health. People with diabetes can experience numerous serious and deadly complications, including heart disease and stroke, blindness, chronic kidney disease and amputations.
  • The risk for stroke is two to four times higher among people with diabetes. Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about two to four times higher than adults without diabetes.
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults age 20 to 74 years.
  • Diabetes is also the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44 percent of new cases in 2008.
  • More than 60 percent of leg and foot amputations not related to accidents and injuries were performed on people with diabetes. In 2006, that amounted to 65,700 amputations.
Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

It is possible to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes in those at high risk for developing the disease. Clinical trials have shown that losing 5 to 7 percent of body weight — that's 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person — and getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes by nearly 60 percent in those at high risk for developing the disease.

The CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program supports establishing a network of community-based, group lifestyle intervention programs for overweight or obese people at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Management and Control

Diabetes can lead to serious complications and premature death, but people with diabetes can take steps to control the disease and lower the risk of complications, like:
  • Talk to your health care provider about how to manage your blood glucose (sugar), blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Learn about what foods and drinks belong in a healthy diet, and proper portion sizes.
  • Be physically active for 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Check your blood glucose and take medicines the way your doctor tells you to.
  • Get routine care. See your health care team at least twice a year to find and treat problems.

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