New research reveals alarming data concerning US citizens’ health: half of all adults in the country have Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, conditions linked to obesity and inactivity.

The study of US government health surveys examined the prevalence of diabetes among 26,000 US adults between 1988-2012, and documented a significant increase in the percentage of people with diabetes over the course of this period. Even though the increase leveled off between 2007 and 2012, the numbers are still disturbingly high and should be a wake-up call to the nation, researchers say.

According to the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, up to 14 percent of US adults had diabetes in 2011-2012, and what’s even scarier, many of them didn’t even know about their condition.

“Diabetes can be treated, but only if it is diagnosed,” said lead researcher Catherine Cowie, program director of the division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic diseases at the US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

“The medical community needs to be aware that there is a high rate of undiagnosed diabetes in the population.”

Most of the people with diabetes tracked by researchers had Type 2 of the disease, the type that generally stems from obesity and inactive lifestyle. Obesity rates typically parallel those of diabetes; a leveling off of the prevalence of obesity also occurred around 2007-2012, the researchers noted.

The number of people with pre-diabetes, characterized by abnormally elevated blood sugar levels that could eventually lead to full-fledged disease without intervention, was especially high in 2012 — making up around 40% of US adults.

The survey also showed that diagnosed diabetes rates were lower among caucasians than Hispanics, blacks and Asian-Americans. The highest numbers of undiagnosed cases of Type 2 diabetes was documented among Asians (51 percent) and Hispanics (49 percent). As for pre-diabetes, the prevalence was the highest among whites and blacks.

Study results were based on US National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys.

Diabetes is a major cause of death in the US, the researchers say, as it increases the risk of heart disease and can cause various complications if left untreated.
Study authors added that people with pre-diabetes can delay or prevent the illness by increasing exercise and making healthier food choices.

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