A study that suggests half of American adults have diabetes or prediabetes may not be as clear-cut as it seems.
As part of the study, 26,000 participants were given a blood test to determine whether or not they had the condition. However, a diagnosis is usually given with two, Live Science reported. While the news that half of Americans may suffer from the illness, there's a possibility that some of them don't have it at all.
That aside, if the stats are accurate, they are a disturbing insight into the health of the American people. The data suggests that 12 percent had diabetes and 38 percent had prediabetes -- or exactly half. Prediabetes is a precursor to the full-blown variety; people with it have high sugar levels, U.S. News and World Report added.
In another unsettling stat, a third of people with it had no idea; most of them were Asian Americans.
Between 1988 and 2012, 26,000 American adults participated in surveys, in which they were asked if they had diabetes and provided a blood sample; scientists tested their sugar levels, again, using the one test.
From 1988 to 1994, 10 percent of adults had diabetes. By 2011 to 2012, that number rose to 12 percent. At the same time, rates of obesity rose as well, and that's a key risk factor. From 2007 to 2012, the numbers leveled off, and so did rates of obesity.
Researchers also found that among the half diagnosed with the illness, one in three of those over 65-years-old had it from 2011-12, compared to 4,400 aged 45-64 and 1,300 under 45.
The point of the study was to better identify the prevalence among American adults in the hopes of improving research and prevention since it remains a serious health concern. Those with the illness have a higher risk of heart disease and suffering a stroke, and can end up with nerve damage, kidney failure, and blindness.
Most Americans have the Type 2 variety, in which the body no longer responds to insulin, causing a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream. Type 2 is caused by poor eating, lack of exercise, and being obese.
And though there is a bit of good news, in that rates appear to be improving, researchers insist the number is still too high. Co-author Dr. William Herman said attitudes about weight, food policy, and support for behavioral change are beginning to have an effect on the epidemic, but it's not enough to combat it.
"Although progress has been made, expanded and sustained efforts will be needed to address these pressing health problems."
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