What is the future of type 2 diabetes in America?

The shape of diabetes in America is changing as demographics of the disease shift. In the past, diabetes has been associated with advancing age, primarily a concern for individuals nearing their 50s and 60s. The current mean age of diagnosis, however, is 46.0, a drop of 6 years from recent averages. Now it is not uncommon for individuals in their 20s and 30s to be diagnosed. Diabetes is not quite an equal-opportunity disease. It affects certain minority populations with a greater frequency than people of European origin, but in all groups the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing.

These changes, though alarming, point to increased knowledge about the disease. Medical professionals now operate with more sophisticated diagnostic criteria than in years past, and general public awareness of type 2 diabetes continues to rise.

Knowledge about type 2 diabetes is critical, particularly since an increasing number of young adults and children are being diagnosed. Type 2 diabetes currently accounts for 45 percent of cases of new-onset diabetes in adolescence, and it is estimated that younger-onset diabetes in the U.S. will more than double by 2050, reaching approximately 5.6 million. As recently as 15 years ago, type 2 diabetes in adolescence was considered rare. In fact, the disease used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes Mellitus, reserved for people over the age of 40. Not so any longer.

An overwhelming number of people (one third to one half of those with diabetes) are thought to not even know of their condition. Thus, a key strategy for maintaining optimal health is to understand what type 2 diabetes is and to be aware of whom in your family might be at risk. Education, however, is not enough. A recent study estimated that 2 out of 3 Americans do not seek treatment for their type 2 diabetes, and approximately 3 out of 5 people with type 2 diabetes have at least one other serious health problem such as heart disease, stroke, eye damage, kidney disease, and foot problems that can lead to amputations. A staggering 1 out of 13 people (7.6 percent) with the disease has 4 or more other serious health problems.

Making type 2 diabetes awareness a priority and staying abreast of the emerging trends of this disease can help you better assess your own state of wellness and interact more knowledgeably with wellness professionals. Although this is a national epidemic, type 2 diabetes does not have to take Americans by surprise.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.