On Nov. 14, World Diabetes Day, we unite with individuals living with diabetes, their families, advocates and health care professionals to raise awareness of this devastating disease around the world. Combating diabetes is an urgent public health issue. More than 340 million people worldwide have diabetes. As the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans of all ages. Another 79 million adults are estimated to have prediabetes, a condition that places them at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. In November, we also observe National Diabetes Month and reaffirm our commitment to educating ourselves and our communities on how we can manage, treat or prevent diabetes.
Insulin helps the body use glucose from food for energy. With type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, the body does not make or use insulin well. With type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin, and the individual must have insulin delivered by injection or pump to survive. While we have made progress in research leading to improved treatment of diabetes, the burden of this devastating disease continues to rise. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, nontraumatic lower-limb amputations, and new cases of blindness among adults in the United States. Diabetes also is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Preventing type 2 diabetes and its complications can improve the quality of life for millions of people and save billions of dollars. The direct and indirect costs of diabetes in 2007 were as much as $174 billion.
However, encouraging research shows that taking small steps, such as adding vegetables and fruits to your diet and getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week, can help manage the disease and improve health. These lifestyle changes can support weight loss, which can go a long way in helping a person at high risk for diabetes delay or prevent the onset. Currently there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes, which is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. However, researchers continue their work to identify risk factors and explore preventive measures.
Preventive care is critical to improving health and outcomes and identifying early signs of disease or risk-factors. That is why the Affordable Care Act ensures that, in new health plans, Americans at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes can receive diabetes screening, diet counseling and obesity screening with no out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, screening for gestational diabetes is available with no co-payment for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant. And in 2014, Americans cannot be denied health coverage because they have diabetes or any other pre-existing condition.
Initiatives such as First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s National Diabetes Prevention Program and the National Diabetes Education Program (a partnership of the National Institutes of Health and CDC) are helping Americans of all ages take action to improve their health and that of the nation.
Please join me in recognizing the dedicated efforts of caregivers, researchers, health care providers, advocates, and community leaders in fighting this disease. By developing healthy habits today, we help ensure a brighter, healthier tomorrow.
To learn more about what you can do to prevent or control diabetes, please see www.YourDiabetesInfo.org or www.cdc.gov/diabetes.
For information on the National Diabetes Prevention Program, including locations of programs in your community, please visit www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention.