The US diabetes epidemic

Cases rise 90% in just one decade

There's little evidence that newer, more expensive drugs work any better than older, cheaper medications. Diabetes, which came 7th in the list of the USA's top mortality causes in 2006, has hit a new high.

Just last year, about 1.6 million new cases were diagnosed among US adults, and current estimates suggest that over 23 million citizens have diabetes.
The recently released Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report has now shown that the rate of new US diabetes cases almost doubled in the last 10 years.
Led by Karen Kirtland at the CDC, the study, which involved a random survey of over 260,000 adults, provides an up-to-date picture of where the disease is exploding. The information should be a big help as the government and health insurance companies decide where to focus prevention campaigns, said Matt Petersen, overseer of data and statistics for the American Diabetes Association. For example, the Southern states ranked bottom for health measures such as exercise. ‘It isn’t surprising the problem is heaviest in the South – no pun intended,’ he added. The data reveal that new diabetic cases rose from 4.8 per 1,000 people during 1995–1997 to 9.1 per 1,000 in 2005–2007 in 33 US states. Highest increases were in the South; Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Tennessee had the highest rates, all at 11 cases per 1,000 or higher ( West Virginia, showed a rise of about 13 in 1,000 adults diagnosed in 2005–2007). Hawaii, Wyoming and Minnesota had the lowest rates, with the latter at 5 in 1,000 cases. Nationwide, the rate of new cases rose from about 5 per 1,000 in the mid-90s to 9 per 1,000 in the middle of this decade. About 90% are Type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity.
It is not certain why some states were worse, but the old, black and Hispanic groups – large populations in the South – tend to show higher rates of Type 2 diabetes. Yet, West Virginia is very predominantly white.
The report focused on diagnosed diabetes. About one in four diabetics has not been diagnosed. Obesity, the CDC says, is the major risk factor for diabetes, but it is not necessary to become thin to avoid this disease. One study has shown that those at high risk for diabetes could lower their risk by 58% over a 3-year period by losing just 5–10% of body weight, and taking 30 minutes of moderate physical activity in five days of the week.
The CDC report was released only days after researchers in the US had found that, although doctors are using a wider array of newer and more expensive drugs to treat diabetes, proof is scant that they work better than older, cheaper medications.


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