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More Americans Successfully Managing Diabetes

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It's important to keep these measures as close to the recommended goals as possible to avoid serious complications, such as heart disease, kidney failure and vision problems.

The researchers reviewed data from four U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, which were done from 1988 to 1994, from 1999 to 2002, 2003 to 2006, and 2007 to 2010. Nearly 5,000 study volunteers said they had diabetes but didn't specify what type they had. All were older than 20.

In 2010, almost 53 percent of those in the study achieved an A1C of less than 7 percent. Fifty-one percent made the blood pressure goal, and 56 percent achieved the cholesterol goal. But, fewer than one in five achieved all three goals.

Some groups fared worse than others. Young people and Mexican-Americans were least likely to meet their blood sugar goals. Forty-four percent of Mexican-Americans made their blood sugar goals in 2010, compared to 53 percent of whites and blacks. Just 49 percent of young people (aged 20 to 49) made their blood sugar goals, while 58 percent of people over 65 did.

Fifty-three percent of whites, 44 percent of blacks and about 48 percent of Hispanics and Mexican-Americans met the blood pressure goal, according to the study.

On cholesterol levels, 55 percent of whites, 45 percent of Mexican-Americans and 48 percent of blacks and Hispanics met the goal.

Cowie said it's clear that public health efforts need to reach out more to minority groups.

Zonszein said the racial disparity issue is complex, but that more education and greater access to regular care and medications could help everyone.

Both experts said the fact that many young people aren't managing their diabetes is particularly troubling.

"Young people were not meeting the A1C goals as much as we would've liked to see. The concern is that they have more time to develop complications because they will have the disease for a long time," Cowie said.

Another worry, Zonszein said, is that type 2 diabetes that occurs in young people seems to be a particularly aggressive form of the disease.

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