Large Increase Seen in Cases of Diabetes; Linked to Weight Problem Among Americans

New York, NY
January 22, 2001

The number of Americans who have diabetes jumped 33 percent in the last 10 years, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes is the number one cause of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure in the U.S. and a leading cause of other health complications including heart disease, strokes and blindness, says the National Kidney Foundation.

“Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of the disease, is closely tied to obesity,” says William Keane, MD, president of the National Kidney Foundation. “Many experts believe the higher incidence of type 2 diabetes is due in large part to America’s weight problem,” adds Keane. Some 97 million American adults, or 55 percent, are considered overweight. This increase extends across races and age groups but is sharpest among people aged 30 to 39.

“Overweight people also have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and other illnesses,” Keane says. Experts blame a sedentary lifestyle for the soaring number of overweight Americans. “In today’s technology-based society, people spend too much time watching TV or sitting in front of computers. To make matters worse, many work at stressful jobs that only allow enough time for fatty fast foods.”

Some 16 million Americans have diabetes, and the number is expected to rise to 22 million by 2025. Diabetes is responsible for more than 45 percent of the new cases of kidney failure in the U.S. each year. People who have kidney failure need dialysis or a kidney transplant to sustain life.

“To help prevent diabetes, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise,” Keane says. Early detection of diabetes is also important. When diabetes is diagnosed and treated early, the risk of complications such as chronic kidney disease and kidney failure can be greatly reduced. All Americans should have regular annual checkups that include tests for blood sugar, blood pressure and kidney function.

Most cases of diabetes occur because the body does not make enough insulin or is unable to use insulin properly. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that generally starts in childhood. Type 2 diabetes, which is frequently linked to obesity, usually starts in adulthood. Both forms of diabetes cause high levels of blood sugar, which eventually result in damage to many vital organs and tissues including the heart, kidneys, eyes, blood vessels and nerves. Depending on the type and stage of diabetes, the treatment may include: diet and exercise, medications and/or insulin injections.

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation. For more information about diabetes and kidney disease contact the foundation at (800) 622-9010.