Nearly Every State Seeing Large Surge in Diabetes

By Denise Mann
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 15, 2012 -- The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. jumped by 50% or more in 42 states and by more than 100% in 18 of those states in just under two decades, according to the latest snapshot from the CDC.

The new data set looked at rates of diabetes in the U.S. from 1995 and 2010. The findings appear in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

In 2010, more than 18.8 million people in the U.S. were estimated to have diabetes, and about 7 million more were estimated to have undetected diabetes. These rates have been on the rise since 1990 across the board.

The states with the greatest spikes in diagnosed diabetes included:

  • Oklahoma (226%)
  • Kentucky (158%)
  • Georgia (145%)
  • Alabama (140%)
  • Washington (135%)

What is driving this? "Risk factors for diabetes, including [inactive] lifestyle and obesity, are some of the major reasons for the increase," says researcher Linda Geiss. She is a statistician at the CDC in Atlanta.

Other explanations may include the aging of the population, the fact that people with diabetes are living longer, and improved screening that catches more people with diabetes.

But "we have seen a striking and continuous increase, which is more likely the result of increased risk factors," she says.

'Diabetes Belt'?

Diabetes rates are known to be the highest in the South and Appalachian region of the U.S. This region spans from southern New York to northern Mississippi and includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states.

"These are also the areas where diabetes is increasing at the fastest rate," Geiss says. These areas have higher rates of risk factors for diabetes, such as obesity, and inactive lifestyles.

But diabetes rates don't have to continue their steep climb. "Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by making changes to your lifestyle," she says. "Get active, eat better, and lose weight."

John Buse, MD, seconds this. He is the chief of the division of endocrinology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

"For people at risk, get screened and adopt a lifestyle plan to avoid diabetes," he says. "The diabetes epidemic rolls on, but the good news is we may be doing better at finding people with diabetes."

Angela U. Tucker, MD, is a family practice doctor at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. The new findings mirror what she has seen in her urban practice.

"Obesity is an obvious risk factor for diabetes, and it is also the most obviously modifiable factor," she says. "You can't change some risk factors, including heredity, age, and ethnicity, but we can change our exercise habits, lose weight, and improve upon our eating habits."


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SOURCES: Linda Geiss, statistician, CDC, Atlanta. Angela U. Tucker MD, Ohio State Wexner Med Center, Columbus. John Buse, MD, chief, division of endocrinology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Nov. 16, 2012.

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