New Yorkers Face Complications Due To Seriously Out-Of-Control Diabetes

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More than 100,000 New York City adults are at high risk of heart attack, blindness, amputations, and other serious complications because of very poorly controlled diabetes, according to unprecedented survey data released today by the New York City Health Department. The new survey also shows that 12.5% of the City's adults have diabetes and that about one third of them - 207,000 people - do not know it.

The findings, from New York City's first-ever Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NYC HANES), provide the clearest picture yet of the City's growing diabetes epidemic. The new investigation, modeled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), used a one-time screening test to estimate diabetes prevalence. The Health Department assessed a variety of health issues by visiting households to gather information, and conducted face-to-face interviews, physical exams, and laboratory tests at a health center. Additional findings will be released in the coming months.

The Health Department's past diabetes estimates have come from a telephone survey that relies on self-reported information. NYC HANES confirmed phone survey estimates that about 9% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, slightly higher than the 7.3% of adults who have diagnosed diabetes nationwide. But laboratory results revealed that an additional 3.8% of adults have undiagnosed diabetes, compared to 3% nationally, bringing the total to 12.5% of New York City adults. Another 23.5% of adults have higher-than-normal fasting blood sugar levels, a national definition of pre-diabetes, meaning that they are at risk of developing diabetes in the future.

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Diabetes rates have doubled in the past 10 years in New York City. This drastic jump in diabetes has closely mirrored the increasing obesity rates. "New York City is getting healthier by almost all measures, but the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes are getting worse by the year," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden. "We're learning more about diabetes to help reverse the epidemic. We know that physical activity, a healthy diet and modest weight loss can help. If you have diabetes, getting your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar under control can make the difference between life and death."

Managing Diabetes

Although diabetes is a serious disease, it can be controlled. Keeping blood sugar in check through diet, physical activity, and medications can prevent complications for the nearly 700,000 New Yorkers who already have diabetes.

An average blood sugar level, or A1C level, of less than 7 is considered in control. A1C levels between 7 and 9 reflect moderately poor control. In contrast, an A1C level greater than 9 indicates very poorly controlled blood sugar, and about 16% of New Yorkers have levels that high.

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