The number of people living with diabetes is soaring in the United States, as 18 states had at least a doubling in those with the illness since 1995, a government survey found.
Diabetics made up 6 percent or more of the population in all 50 states in 2010, an increase from just three states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in 1995, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates are increasing in tandem with obesity, which has reached epidemic proportions as physical activity levels plunge and daily calorie counts soar, according to the CDC.
The findings have health and economic implications as the number of Americans with diabetes is expected to continue climbing unless effective prevention and treatment efforts are established, Ann Albright, director of the CDC's division of diabetes translation, said. Diabetes costs topped $174 billion in 2007, the most recent numbers available, with about $1 of every $10 spent on health care going toward the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.
"It's potentially a big problem, and it's a problem that is going to increase," said Adrian Vella, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who studies the development of prediabetes. "The longer that people live the more likely they are to have diabetes. And the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to have complications from it."
The findings in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report are based on telephone surveys conducted across the U.S. Researchers asked people if had been told they had diabetes. They didn't differentiate between Type 1, which develops in children who stop producing the hormone insulin, and Type 2, which accounts for as many as 95 percent of cases. Type 2 diabetes, where the body doesn't properly use insulin, generally occurs in older people who are overweight and sedentary.
"Regionally, we saw the largest increase in diagnosed diabetes prevalence in the South, followed by the West, Midwest and Northeast," said Linda Geiss, a CDC statistician and the lead study author, in a statement. The findings confirm earlier reports that the highest numbers of people diagnosed with diabetes live in the south and the Appalachian states, she said.
The news wasn't all bad. The increased number of people with diabetes probably stems in part from better survival among people with the disease, the CDC report said. Death rates fell faster among diabetics than those without it from 1997 through 2006 as medical care improved, national data shows.
The greatest reason for the increase is the number of newly diagnosed cases each year since 1990, according to the report. While some of the increase may stem from better detection, it also coincides with higher obesity rates, the report found.
Almost 19 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with diabetes in 2010, and another 7 million had undetected disease, according to the CDC.
The states with the largest increases in diabetes rates from 1995 through 2010 were Oklahoma, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama and Washington. In Oklahoma alone, the diabetes rate rose 227 percent, the study found. In six states and Puerto Rico, the number of diabetics was 10 percent or more of the population in 2010. They were Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina.
The CDC findings confirm what doctors are seeing in their practices across the country, Vella said during a telephone interview. It's critical that people work to remain as close as possible to their healthy body weight, which is one of the best ways to prevent development of the disease, he said.