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Diabetes Rates are on the Rise, How You Can Slow Them Down

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Diabetes Rates are on the Rise, How You Can Slow Them Down


Updated: May 2, 2019    Published: November 21, 2014

November is National Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness about one of the United States’ most prevalent diseases, its common risk factors, and how it can be prevented. If you look at the numbers, diabetes rates in America are staggering—and they have risen dramatically in recent decades.

More than 29 million Americans—about 9 percent of the population—have diabetes, and more than 8 million people do not know they have it, according to the National Diabetes Education Program.[1] An additional 86 million people age 20 and older have prediabetes—that’s 1 in 3 Americans.[2]

There were 1,568,000 newly diagnosed cases of diabetes among adults age 18 to 79 in 2011, according to the most recent CDC data available.[3] The rate has more than tripled from 1980.

Rate of Diagnosed Diabetes

Researchers believe the overall rates may be slowing for the first time after decades of growth; however, they are more prevalent and increasing among certain populations in America. Groups with the highest rate of diagnosed diabetes include Black (9.3 percent) and Hispanic (9.2 percent) individuals, those with less than a high school education (8.6 percent), and those age 65 to 74 (21.8 percent).[4]

Diabetes by Race and Education Level

When left undiagnosed and untreated, diabetes responsible for many additional health problems. It is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower extremity amputations, and new cases of blindness each year among Americans age 20 to 74.[5] Additionally[6]:

  • Heart disease deaths are nearly two times higher among adults age 18 and older who are diagnosed with diabetes
  • Adults age 20 and older who are diagnosed with diabetes are nearly two times more likely to be hospitalized for heart attack and about one-and-a-half times more likely to be hospitalized for stroke than those without it

Fortunately, diabetes prevention is, as the National Diabetes Education program states, “proven, possible, and powerful.”[7]

Know your risk

The old adage holds true, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Becoming aware of your personal Type 2 diabetes risk level is important to keeping it at bay.

Key risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include the following[8],[9]:

  • Age Risk increases with age, especially after age 45.
  • Weight Being overweight or obese may also increase your risk. Those at high risk for diabetes can prevent or delay the disease’s onset by losing 5 to 7 percent of their weight, if they are overweight.[10]
  • Family history If your mother, father, sister or brother has diabetes, your risk increases.
  • Race Those with African American, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, and Pacific Islander American heritage are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Activity level Those who are inactive may be more susceptible to developing diabetes. It is recommended you get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week.[11]
  • Medical history High cholesterol, high blood pressure, prediabetes, gestational diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, other conditions associated with insulin resistance, and cardiovascular disease are all associated with an increased risk for diabetes.

While you may not be able to control certain risk factors such as age, family history and race, you can reduce your risk by making lifestyle changes such as improving your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, becoming more active, control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

For a basic risk assessment, take the American Diabetes Association’s Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test at

Create a plan

Once you are aware of your risk, take stock of your lifestyle. What can be changed? Set some bite-size, realistic goals and build from there. Add more activity by parking farther from the door or walking the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Improve your diet by gradually scaling back on foods high in fat and sugar and adding whole grains, fruits, veggies and lean meats.

Be specific. Instead of saying “I will eat healthier” or “I will walk more,” the American Diabetes Association recommends setting specific goals[12]:

  • For the next month (how long), four days each week (how often) I will eat two pieces of fruit each day — one at breakfast and one as an afternoon snack. (realistic and specific)
  • For the next month (how long), four days each week (how often) I will take a 15-minute walk after lunch (realistic and specific).

Also schedule a checkup with your doctor. If you have an ACA-compliant health insurance plan, visit a network provider, and meet age and risk criteria, certain preventive services and screenings (i.e., cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes) may be included at no additional cost. Before your appointment, find out about diabetes in your family. At your appointment, notify your healthcare provider so your medical chart may be updated, and discuss your diabetes risk and concerns.

Share your goals with family and friends so they can support and encourage your efforts—they may even be inspired to follow suit. Finding people to exercise or swap healthy recipes with can help keep you on track.

Use your resources

Your healthcare provider is your first stop. You may also consult trusted online resources to gather information and find tips for making lifestyle changes.

The American Diabetes Association a wealth of information on the disease in its many forms. It’s also a vast resource for food and fitness information, including meal planning suggestions, basic nutrition articles, tips for creating a safe exercise and weight loss plan, and much more., a website sponsored by the ADA, includes ways to get involved and raise awareness about diabetes, including information on events such as walks and rides in your community.

Download the National Diabetes Education Program’s “Small Steps. Big Rewards. Your GAME PLAN to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes.” This three-booklet kit can help you create a game plan for diabetes and then track your goals and progress using a food and activity tracker and fat and calorie counter.

If you need one-on-one assistance with making changes to your diet, weight or fitness level, work with your doctor or consult friends and family for referrals to professionals such as registered dieticians and personal trainers. Check with your health insurance company to see what services may be covered by your plan benefits.

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[1] National Diabetes Education Program. “National Diabetes Month 2014: NDEP Key Messages.”

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes.

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Chronic Diseases: The Power to Prevent, the Call to Control.” 2009.

[6] National Diabetes Education Program. “National Diabetes Month 2014: NDEP Key Messages.”

[7] National Institutes of Health. National Diabetes Education Program. “Diabetes is Preventable.”

[8] American Diabetes Association. “Age, Race, Gender & Family History.” N.D.

[9] Department of Health and Human Services. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. “Am I at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?” Last updated Sept. 10, 2014.

[10] National Institutes of Health. National Diabetes Education Program. “Diabetes is Preventable.”

[11] National Institutes of Health. National Diabetes Education Program. “Diabetes is Preventable.”

[12] American Diabetes Association. “Small Steps for Your Health.” Last edited April 18, 2014.

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