January 26th, 2011
12:51 PM ET
Almost 26 million Americans older than age 20 have diabetes and more than a quarter or 7 million do not know they have the disease, according to estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.
In addition, more than one-third of adults in the United States (35%) are believed to have what's called "prediabetes," which means their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetic.
Diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in 2007. People with diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease and amputations.
Almost all diabetics (at least 90%) have type 2 diabetes, which is usually linked to older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity. About 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, according to the National Institutes of Health.
People who have type 1 diabetes cannot reverse their disease because their pancreas doesn't produce insulin because their immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the organ.
People who have type 2 diabetes usually have a pancreas that can produce enough insulin, but for some unknown reasons, according to the NIH, the body cannot use the insulin effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. After several years of this, the body's insulin production decreases.
But those with prediabetes can do something to prevent further illness. "We know that a structured lifestyle program that includes losing weight and increasing physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes." says Ann Albright, the CDC's director of the division of Diabetes Translation in a press release.
Prediabetes raises the risk of a person getting type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Normal fasting blood sugar levels should be below 100 – anything between 100 and 125 is considered prediabetes and if your blood sugar level is 125 or higher, you're considered to be diabetic)
According to this new CDC data, half of all Americans over the age of 65 are prediabetic and 27% have diabetes. Minorities are still at higher risk compared with Caucasians: 16 % of American Indians/Alaska Natives, more than 12% of African-Americans and nearly 12% of Hispanic adults now have diabetes, compared with a little more than 8% of Asian-Americans and 7% of non-Hispanic whites.
Just 2 years ago, the CDC estimated nearly 24 million Americans had diabetes and 57 million were prediabetic.
The CDC estimates tab for treating diabetes as well as lost work, premature death, to be $174 billion in 2007.
Editor's Note: For a comprehensive look at the diabetes epidemic in the United States and what can be done to reverse type 2 diabetes, tune in to "Sanjay Gupta MD," this Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET on CNN.
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.