On November 14, World Diabetes Day—and during National Diabetes Month-- we join with individuals living with diabetes, their families, advocates, and health care professionals to raise awareness of this devastating disease around the world.
Combating diabetes is a serious public health issue. More than 340 million people worldwide have diabetes. Recognizing the urgency of this public health problem globally, this May the World Health Assembly adopted a global target to stop the rise in diabetes by 2025.
As the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans of all ages. Another 79 million adults are estimated to have prediabetes, a condition that places them at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
While we have made progress in research leading to improved treatment of diabetes, the burden of this complex disease continues to rise. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputations not caused by injury, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States. Diabetes also is a major cause of heart disease and stroke.
Preventing type 2 diabetes and its complications can improve the quality of life for millions of people and save billions of dollars. The direct and indirect costs of diabetes in 2007 were as much as $174 billion.
Yet, while type 2 diabetes is often preventable, more and more people – including young people -- are at risk for type 2 diabetes due partly to the obesity epidemic and aging of the U.S. population.
Currently there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, which is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. However, researchers continue their work to identify risk factors and explore preventive measures.
It is important to keep in mind the theme of HHS’s National Diabetes Education Program for National Diabetes Month this year: Diabetes is a family affair. Diabetes strikes not only individuals, but families, communities, and our Nation.
Encouraging research shows that taking small steps, such as adding vegetables and fruits to your diet and getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week, can help manage type 2 diabetes and improve health. These lifestyle changes can support weight loss, which can go a long way in helping a person at high risk for type 2 diabetes delay or prevent its onset.
Involve your entire family. Cook a balanced meal. Share a brisk walk, talk with your family about your health and your family’s diabetes risk. Schools, work sites, and places of worship can also be part of the diabetes prevention and management solution.
Preventive care is critical to improving health and identifying early signs of disease or risk-factors. That is why the Affordable Care Act ensures that, in non-grandfathered health plans, Americans at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes can receive diabetes screening, diet counseling and obesity screening with no out-of-pocket cost. Additionally, screening for gestational diabetes is available at no additional charge for pregnant women. In 2014, Americans cannot be denied health coverage because they have diabetes or any other pre-existing condition.
Initiatives such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Diabetes Prevention Program and the National Diabetes Education Program (a partnership of the National Institutes of Health and CDC) are helping Americans of all ages take action to improve their health and that of the nation.
For information on the National Diabetes Prevention Program, please visit www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention.
For a fraud alert for people with diabetes, see http://oig.hhs.gov/newsroom/news-releases/2012/alert20120309.asp.