Why Is Diabetes Increasing in the United States

Reviewed on 4/9/2021

As per the National Diabetes Statistics Report (2020), around 34.2 million people in the United States have diabetes.
As per the National Diabetes Statistics Report (2020), around 34.2 million people in the United States have diabetes.

As per the National Diabetes Statistics Report (2020), around 34.2 million people in the United States have diabetes. This counts for 10.5% of the US population. Diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, is rising at an alarming rate in the United States. Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disorder that is most commonly due to unhealthy eating patterns, lack of exercise, and genes. As per the American Diabetes Association, the number of Americans with diagnosed diabetes is projected to increase 165%, from 11 million in 2000 (prevalence of 4.0%) to 29 million in 2050 (prevalence of 7.2%). The reason why diabetes is increasing in the United States can be attributed to various factors that include:

Obesity

Obesity and severe obesity trends have generally increased over the past 15 years. The diabetes cases have bloomed with the increase in the rates of obesity. Obesity is one of the most important factors that increase your risk of diabetes.

Lack of physical activity

Ceasing regular physical activity impairs the control of blood sugar levels (glycemic control) in healthy individuals and heightens your risk of diabetes.

Quantitative and qualitative changes in diet

Increased use of carbonated drinks and foods high in sugar, such as baked products made from white flour, processed and packed ready-to-eat foods, and fried foods, has contributed to an unhealthy eating pattern among Americans. These foods can induce chronic inflammation, a factor that can lead to diabetes.

Awareness

There has been an improvement in awareness regarding the health effects of diabetes in the United States. This has led to people getting themselves tested for diabetes than they would have earlier.

Change in diagnostic criteria and diagnosis

Doctors have started screening patients for diabetes. A new term, “prediabetes,” has been coined, which denotes the stage in which blood sugar levels are elevated, but the patient has not progressed to the stage of full-blown diabetes. Doctors recommend only exercises and dietary changes for this category of people. If there is no improvement in blood sugar levels, doctors may consider starting medications.

Because of the easier availability of a new blood test known as HbA1C, it is possible to diagnose diabetes without fasting for 12 hours. The American Diabetes Association recommended the test for routine screening in 2010. The test is a much reliable test for diagnosing diabetes early. Hence, diabetes is getting detected quite earlier, and young people are getting diagnosed with diabetes.

Aging population

Aging increases your risk for diabetes. With the advances in healthcare, people have an increased lifespan. Hence, there is a huge percentage of the aging population in the total number of people getting diagnosed with diabetes.

The increasing number of people getting diagnosed with diabetes is a sum of people 

  • Who have been newly affected with diabetes, especially the young ones due to unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Who have been living with diabetes but have been diagnosed with it after the availability of newer tests and an increase in screening for it.

There is also an increase in the number of the aging population who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

What can you do to reduce your risk of diabetes?

Some dietary changes and lifestyle interventions have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, in the long run. Even people with prediabetes have been able to sustain their normal levels for years due to adoption of the healthy practices that are as follows:

  • A diet that
    • Is moderate in fat and low in saturated fat intake.
    • Is high in fiber intake.
    • Consists of a good amount of whole grain intake.
    • Consists of plenty of fruits and vegetables.
    • Has adequate intake of good fats such as olive oil, flaxseed, and walnuts.
    • Has low intake of processed and packaged foods.
    • Has low high sugar content in packed foods.
  • Regular exercising: The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. These exercises should be spread out over a week.

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References
National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020.

Benoit SR, Hora I, Albright AL, Gregg EW. New directions in incidence and prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in the USA. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care. 2019;7:e000657.

Sami W, Ansari T, Butt NS, Hamid MRA. Effect of diet on type 2 diabetes mellitus: A review. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2017;11(2):65-71. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics-report/index.html

Boyle JP, Honeycutt AA, Narayan KM, et al. Projection of diabetes burden through 2050: impact of changing demography and disease prevalence in the U.S. Diabetes Care. 2001;24(11):1936-1940.

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