The figures show a steep rise in the number of people with diabetes -- up by more than 3 million people in about two years, notes Ann Albright, PhD, RD, director of the CDC's division of diabetes translation.
Here are the CDC's new diabetes data for 2007:
Number of people with diabetes: 23.6 million, or 7.8% of the population
Number of people with diagnosed diabetes: 17.9 million
Number of people with undiagnosed diabetes: 5.7 million
Number of new cases of diabetes diagnosed in adults aged 20 and older in 2007: About 1.6 million
Number of youths younger than 20 with diabetes: About 186,300
"It's very important that people understand how serious this disease is and that this growth in this epidemic is very, very concerning, particularly those new cases," Albright tells WebMD."We're hopeful that these data will shine a light and remind people that we must do more in diabetes prevention and control."
Albright lists several reasons why diabetes is becoming more common in the U.S.
"Front and center is the rise in overweight and obesity. That is certainly a strong factor in the development of type 2 diabetes," the most common type of diabetes in adults, says Albright.
America's aging population is also a factor, since type 2 diabetes becomes more likely with age, notes Albright. About 23% of adults aged 60 and older have diabetes, according to the CDC's new diabetes statistics.
Also, ethnic groups that are the hardest hit by diabetes -- African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Asians/Pacific Islanders-- have been growing. And people with diabetes, especially men, are living longer than in the past, Albright points out.
"We want to see the numbers go down for the right reasons," says Albright. "We don't want to see the numbers go down because people with diabetes are dying prematurely. ... We want to see them go down because we're having fewer new cases of diabetes. Once someone's developed the disease, we obviously need to be working to help them live long and successfully with the disease."
Albright also highlights the fact that people with diabetes are more likely to know that they're diabetic. The percentage of undiagnosed diabetes cases dropped from 30% to 25% over a two-year period.
"We're happy to report that there are more people who are aware that they have diabetes than in the past," says Albright.
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