U.S. Diabetes Population to Double or Triple by 2050

CDC reports older, more diverse population and longer lifespans contribute to increase.

As many as one in three U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue, according to new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Currently, one in 10 U.S. adults has diabetes, but the CDC projections the prevalence is expected to rise sharply over the next 40 years due to an aging population more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, increases in minority groups that are at high risk for type 2 diabetes, and people with diabetes living longer.

Published in the journal Population Health Metrics, the CDC data predicts that the number of new diabetes cases each year will increase from eight per 1,000 people in 2008, to 15 per 1,000 in 2050.

The report estimates that the number of Americans with diabetes will range from one in three to one in five by 2050. That range reflects differing assumptions about how many people will develop diabetes, and how long they will live after developing the disease.

"These are alarming numbers that show how critical it is to change the course of type 2 diabetes," said Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation. "Successful programs to improve lifestyle choices on healthy eating and physical activity must be made more widely available, because the stakes are too high and the personal toll too devastating to fail."

Proper diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of diabetes and help to control the condition in people with diabetes. Effective prevention programs directed at groups at high risk of type 2 diabetes can considerably reduce future increases in diabetes prevalence, but will not eliminate them, the report says.

The projection that one-third of all U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050 assumes that recent increases in new cases of diabetes will continue and people with diabetes will also live longer, which adds to the total number of people with the disease.

Projected increases in U.S. diabetes prevalence also reflect the growth in the disease internationally. An estimated 285 million people worldwide had diabetes in 2010, according to the International Diabetes Federation. The federation predicts as many as 438 million will have diabetes by 2030.

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, family history, having diabetes while pregnant, a sedentary lifestyle and race/ethnicity. Groups at higher risk for the disease are African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and some Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The CDC said it is working with its research partners on a variety of initiatives to prevent type 2 diabetes and to reduce its complications. CDC's National Diabetes Prevention Program, which launched in April, is designed to bring evidence-based programs for preventing type 2 diabetes to communities. The program supports establishing a network of lifestyle intervention programs for overweight or obese people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These interventions emphasize dietary changes, coping skills and group support to help participants lose 5 percent to 7 percent of their body weight and get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity. The program is working with 28 sites across the United States offering group lifestyle interventions with plans to expand to additional sites in the future.

The Diabetes Prevention Program clinical trial, led by the National Institutes of Health, has shown that those measures can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58 percent in people at higher risk of the disease.

Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in 2007, and is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults under age 75, kidney failure, and non-accident/injury leg and foot amputations among adults. People with diagnosed diabetes have medical costs that are more than twice that of those without the disease. The total costs of diabetes are an estimated $174 billion annually, including $116 billion in direct medical costs. About 24 million Americans have diabetes, and one-quarter of them do not know they have it.

For a full copy of the report, visit http://www.pophealthmetrics.com/content/8/1/29.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Editor of HME Business.

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