The cost of diabetes in the United States has soared from $174 billion in 2007 to a staggering $245 billion dollars in 2012, according to a new study released today by the American Diabetes Association. That’s a stunning 41% increase in just five years, far higher than the rate of inflation. The direct cost of the disease for medical care is $176 billion, and the remaining indirect cost of $69 billion includes lost productivity because a person misses work for treatment, gets too sick to work, or dies too young and thus stops contributing to the work force too soon.
“One in 10 health care dollars is being spent directly on diabetes and its complications,” said Dr. Robert Ratner, the American Diabetes Association Chief Scientific and Medical Officer. The ADA considers diabetes a national epidemic, stating that 26 million Americans already have diabetes and that up to 79 million people have prediabetes, meaning that they are at high risk to eventually develop the disease.
Jacque Wilson and Sophia Dengo at CNN talked to ADA officials to see if there’s anything we can do to slow this explosive — and expensive — epidemic. To a certain extent, the growth in diabetes is inevitable because one of the risk factors is age. As the huge population of baby boomers moves into their senior years, they are swelling the ranks of people newly diagnosed with the disorder.
Being overweight is also a risk factor for diabetes. Weight gain is also tied to age, and most healthy people will put on a few pounds as they get older. However, many observers think that the rise in average weight among Americans is far more than just the normal result of aging.
For instance, R. Morgan Griffin for Web MD called the obesity problem “astronomical,” and he was willing to run some numbers to prove it. According to one of his sources, 31% of American adults are obese, as are 15% of children and teens. Another source claimed that the rising costs of obesity-related diabetes would eventually bankrupt the healthcare system.
The Centers for Disease Control have acknowledged that there are some risk factors you can’t do anything about. Certain ethnic groups, for example, have much higher susceptibility to diabetes. Having had gestational diabetes or giving birth to a very large baby is another risk factor that’s out of your hands. There may even be some evidence that being a first-born child could affect your odds of developing diabetes.
However, the CDC said that even people at high risk can delay the disease by exercising 5 times a week and eating right. They suggest a diet that is low in fat and sugar. Some doctors also recommend a diet that’s lower in salt, particularly if you already have high blood pressure.
The high costs of diabetes aren’t completely avoidable in an aging population, but we can fight back to keep them under control.