Over the last six decades, diabetes diagnoses have risen dramatically. According to long-term statistics shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 1958, 1.6 million people had diabetes, or less than 1 percent of the population. In 2015, 23.4 million people—7.4 percent of the population—had been diagnosed with diabetes. In 2020, that number rose to 34.2 million people, or 10.5 percent of the population. Even more frightening? More than one in five don’t even know they have it. An article on the Harvard Health Blog has called diabetes “one of the most important public health concerns of our time.”

As more people are diagnosed with diabetes, or their loved ones are diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to understand this chronic disease, which is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. Below, you’ll find the facts that everyone should know about diabetes. If you’re concerned you or a loved one might have diabetes, or even be at risk for diabetes, talk to your doctor.  

  1. Type 2 diabetes is preventable. And the time to act is now! Especially if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes which is something one in three people have, and most don’t know it. By losing weight, eating healthily and exercising regularly, you can prevent diabetes. In fact, there are even programs designed to help you do so, and they’re recognized by the CDC. Lifestyle Change Programs teaches people how to make healthy choices around food, exercise and portion size; connects them with a lifestyle coach and introduces them to a support group where they can all endeavor to improve their health together.
  2. Diabetes may begin with no symptoms, but it can lead to serious health conditions. With diabetes, the sugar your body makes from food, called glucose, is unregulated and uncontrolled in your body. When there’s too much of that sugar, it can negatively impact the heart, eyes, blood vessels, kidneys and teeth, and it can lead to more infections and increase the risk for amputations. If you have diabetes, it’s critical that you maintain good blood glucose levels, as well as cholesterol and blood pressure, in order to avoid serious health complications.
  3. Diabetes is expensive. The American Diabetes Association studied the cost of diabetes and found that people diagnosed with diabetes have medical expenditures that 2.3 times higher than what they would be without diabetes. Their care accounts for one in four dollars spent in the U.S. on health care. Plus, there are indirect costs: absence from work costs $3.3 billion annually; reduced productivity at work amounts to $26.9 billion; inability to work because of a disability related to a disease costs $37.5 billion; and diminished productivity because of early death costs $19.9 billion.
  4. Diabetes can impact your mental health. It’s not easy being diagnosed with a chronic disease, especially one with a stigma. Stress, grief, anxiety, frustration, disappointment—these are all normal responses, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you’re struggling, talk to your doctor about it. He or she may be able to recommend activities that could help, such as exercise, stress-relieving activities, support groups, counseling and/or medication. Just know that you’re not alone, and help is out there.  

By knowing your risk level for diabetes, you’re already off to a good start, because you can take steps to live a healthier life. We know which people are more likely to be diagnosed with prediabetes, which means we know exactly who should talk to their doctor and take precautions sooner than later, to avoid getting diabetes.

The ADA shares the following factors that put people at higher risk: People who are older than 45; are Black, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, Asian American or Pacific Islander; have a parent or sibling with diabetes; are physically inactive; are overweight; have high blood pressure/take medication for high blood pressure; have low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides; had diabetes while pregnant; have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome.

If any of those factors resonate, call your doctor to schedule a test and set up a prevention plan today.