Diabetes: The Elusive Epidemic

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, but a quarter of them don’t know it

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Diabetes: The Elusive Epidemic

If you’re 45 or older, overweight, and you don’t exercise much, it might be time to learn more about preventing and diagnosing diabetes. You could be one of the millions of Americans who have diabetes and don’t know it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 30 million Americans have diabetes — but one-fourth of them don’t realize it. Diabetes is a serious condition that can lead to numerous complications, including blindness, kidney failure, and amputation of a toe, foot, or leg. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious conditions, such as stroke and heart disease. 

The CDC estimates that an additional 88 million Americans have prediabetes — elevated blood sugar levels that are not quite high enough to be called diabetes, but still pose health risks — and 4 in 5 of them don’t know they have it.

So, how can you have such a serious disease and not know it? 

  • In prediabetes, people often have no clear symptoms and don’t realize that their weight, lack of exercise, poor diet, or family history may put them at risk.
  • With full-blown diabetes, although there are symptoms, according to a National Institutes of Health study, many people don’t think it’s necessary to go to the doctor, often because they don’t want to spend the time or money; they don’t think their symptoms are serious enough; they don’t have health insurance; or they distrust doctors. For all these reasons and more, many wait until a condition becomes severe before they seek medical care. 

Public health officials agree that regular health checkups are important, especially later in life. And in this case, the good news is that both prediabetes and diabetes can be diagnosed with blood sugar tests during routine health screenings, and doctors can prescribe medications and lifestyle changes to help keep patients healthy, such as losing weight, exercising, eating a healthy diet, and trying to reduce stress.

The hard part? Making sure people know whether they’re at risk and getting them tested in the first place. If you’re curious, try this quick test online to measure your risk.

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30M+ of American have diabetes

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1 in 4 American with diabetes don't know they have it