What NIH Statistics Reveal About Diabetes Prevalence

Author(s): 
By John Steinberg, DPM

How Common Is Diabetes?
Seventeen million people or 6.2 percent of the population have diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Of these, 5.9 million persons with diabetes remain undiagnosed.
About 151,000 people under the age of 20 have diabetes. Clinic-based reports and regional studies indicate type 2 diabetes is becoming more common among American Indian, African-American, Hispanic and Latino children and adolescents.
NIH statistics show that 16.9 million people age 20 or older have diabetes and one million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed per year in this population group. This breaks down to 2,200 new cases a day. The incidence of diabetes is much higher in those over 65. In fact, 20.1 percent of this population has diabetes. Among those 65 and over, 7 million or 20.1 percent have diabetes.
In the U.S., an estimated 7.8 million men of all ages have diabetes while 9.1 million women (of all ages) have the disease.
There continues to be a higher prevalence of the disease among minority populations. Diabetes affects 11.4 million non-Hispanic whites and 2.8 million non-Hispanic blacks. On average, non-Hispanic blacks are two times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites of similar age.
According to NIH estimates, 2 million Hispanic/Latino Americans have diabetes. On average, Hispanic/Latino Americans are 1.9 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites of similar age. Mexican Americans, the largest Hispanic/Latino subgroup, are two times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites of similar age. Similarly, residents of Puerto Rico are two times more likely to have diagnosed diabetes than non-Hispanic whites in the U.S.
Sufficient data are not available to derive more specific current estimates for other groups. Of those American Indians and Alaska Natives who receive care from the Indian Health Service (IHS), 105,000 have diabetes. At the regional level, diabetes is least common among Alaska natives (5.3 percent) and most common among American Indians in the southeastern United States (25.7 percent) and in certain tribes from the southwest. On average, American Indians and Alaska natives are 2.6 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites of similar ages.
Prevalence data for diabetes among Asian-Americans and native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders are limited. Some groups within these populations are at increased risk for diabetes. For example, data collected from 1996 to 2000 suggest native Hawaiians are 2.5 times more likely to have diagnosed diabetes than similarly aged white residents of Hawaii.

What Studies Say About Prevention
Research studies in the United States and abroad have found that lifestyle changes can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes among high-risk adults. These studies, which lasted three to six years, included people with IGT and other high-risk characteristics for developing diabetes. Lifestyle interventions included diet and moderate-intensity physical activity (such as walking for two hours each week). This study found that these interventions led to a 40 to 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing diabetes for for both sexes and all age and racial and ethnic groups.
Studies have also shown medications have been successful in preventing diabetes in some population groups. In a large prevention study of people at high risk for diabetes, people treated with the drug metformin reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 31 percent. Treatment with metformin was most effective for younger, heavier people (those 25 to 40 years of age who were 50 to 80 pounds overweight) and less effective among older people and people who were not as overweight.

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