By 2034 The Rate of Diabetes Could Double

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Due to a population that is aging and the considerable rise in the obesity rate, researchers have concluded that the “perfect storm” for is being created.

"A perfect storm is a good way to look at it," researcher Elbert S. Huang, MD of the University of Chicago says. "If things stay the way they are right now we will have massive increases in diabetes incidence in this country over the next two decades."

Massive is right. The study which was published in the November issue of the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care concludes that by 2034, there can be as many as 44 million Americans with diabetes. That is a stagger rise from the 23 million Americans that have it today.

To add insult to injury, the cost for caring and treating diabetes is projected to rise from $113 billion to $336 annually, and that is before adjusting for inflation. Because more diabetes patients will be older and sicker and will require more expensive medical care, experts fear the costs will outpace the increase in cases.

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Researchers discovered that age is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and the transition of baby boomers from middle to old age will drive much of the increase. As a direct result half of all direct spending in diabetes care is projected to occur in the Medicare population by the year 2034.

Currently it is estimated that 8 million Americans covered by Medicare now have diabetes and it cost $45 billion to treat them in 2009 but the number of these patients whose treatment is paid for by Medicare is projected to nearly double to 14.6 million in the next 25 years. The study states the cost of caring for them is expected to quadruple and by 2034, annual Medicare spending on diabetes care is projected to rise to $171 billion.

There is nothing we can do about the aging population however, there is plenty we can do about the major risk factor and that is obesity. The CDC states that 65% of Americans are overweight, and about one-third are obese and the obesity rate among adults in the U.S. doubled between 1980 and 2004.

Many agree that a decline in obesity that can be achieved though successful public health initiatives, could change the outlook of these figures. The future projected in the newly published study does not have to become reality, experts say.

"The cost of doing nothing is clearly going to be quite high," study co-researcher Michael O'Grady, PhD, said in a news conference. "To do nothing right now is going to cost billions and billions of dollars." American Diabetes Association chief scientific and medical officer David M. Kendall, MD says that even modest lifestyle changes, such as losing a few pounds or taking walks, can significantly decrease the risk for developing diabetes.

"Even modest weight loss and as little as 30 minutes of exercise five or more days a week and inexpensive treatments can keep people healthy," he says. "That is really the big message."

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