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Nearly 10% of U.S. Adults Now Have Diabetes: Study

Researchers found a nationwide rise of the disease since late 1980s, and a parallel rise in obesity

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Rates of prediabetes also increased dramatically from less than 6 percent to more than 12 percent over the study period. However, the number of people with undiagnosed diabetes leveled off during the study period, likely due to improved screening methods. Overall, the number of people with undiagnosed diabetes was reduced to 11 percent by 2010, according to the study.

Other news from the study was that blood sugar management improved among whites, although those gains weren't seen in blacks or Mexican-Americans.

Results of the study appear in the April 15 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"The reality is that we know what to do to prevent type 2 diabetes, but doing it on a population level is an incredible challenge," Selvin said. "There's some evidence that the obesity epidemic may have plateaued, but combating the environment that contributes to obesity is an incredible difficulty."

Dr. Martin Abrahamson, senior vice president for medical affairs at the Joslin Diabetes Center, in Boston, is a co-author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal.

"This article is a reminder that this problem isn't going away; it's only getting worse," Abrahamson said.

Like Selvin, he acknowledged that knowing you need to lose weight and exercise more -- and succeeding at making those changes -- are a challenge.

"There are too many pushes and pulls in society that make it difficult for people to adhere to lifestyle regimens. Adhering to a healthy diet and exercising regularly have all shown benefit in reducing diabetes, hypertension [high blood pressure], weight and cholesterol," Abrahamson said.

"So, how do you get people to embrace lifestyle changes?" he added. "It's really going to take a multipronged effort that requires private and public institutions to really come together and develop a strategy to advance the message to live a healthy life.

"We also need to engage health-care professionals in doing a better job in counseling the benefits of lifestyle changes," he said.

Abrahamson recommends walking 30 minutes a day at a brisk pace, and trying to lose 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight to help prevent type 2 diabetes. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with prediabetes.

Both Selvin and Abrahamson said the finding that overall blood sugar control has improved among whites, but not among minorities, suggests that more public health dollars -- for prevention, raising awareness and increasing access to care -- need to be targeted to minority communities.

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