Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how the body breaks down food into energy, and it occurs when your blood glucose is too high. About 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, and about 1 in 5 people with diabetes do not know they have it. According to the CDC, diabetes costs $327 billion annually in medical costs and lost work and wages. People with diabetes have reported to pay almost twice as much in medical bills than people who do not have diabetes. Diabetes can affect mental, physical, and emotional well-being. While there are no cures for diabetes yet, there are many steps people can take to manage the disease and its complications. According to the 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, prevalence of diagnosed diabetes was highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives (14.7%), people of Hispanic origin (12.5%), and non-Hispanic blacks (11.7%), followed by non-Hispanic Asians (9.2% and non-Hispanic whites (7.5%).
Aging, lifestyle habits, family history, socioeconomic status, education, and urbanization are seen as contributors to an increasing prevalence in diabetes. Environmental factors also influence a person's risk for diabetes. Those who live in low socioeconomic neighborhoods typically lack access to quality healthcare, healthy food options, and active transportation, which is part of the reason why certain populations are at disproportionate risk of diabetes. Although some risk factors are unavoidable (e.g. family history), lifestyle factors like physical activity and healthy eating can be modified to decrease risk of diabetes. It’s never too late to begin exercising regularly, eating more healthy foods, and drinking more water.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which provides numerous rights that make health coverage more fair, can help reduce diabetes in the United States and accelerate diabetes prevention. According to the American Diabetes Association, the Affordable Care Act made it illegal for insurers to charge higher premiums or deny coverage to individuals with diabetes, paving the way for millions of Americans to gain coverage free from discrimination based on health status. The government can continue to work towards decreasing diabetes rates in the United States by focusing on education initiatives and establishing policies that support dietary choices and improved lifestyle. Learning how to control your diabetes helps you manage your diabetes better, including how and when to take medication, how to monitor blood sugar, and how to take care of yourself—all of which leads to fewer emergency hospital visits. Community based organizations can help people with diabetes take steps to lower their blood sugar and manage the disease by helping them enroll in the National Diabetes Prevention Program. The CDC offers an abundance of online learning modules and webinars that can be used to help support people at risk for developing diabetes or those who already have diabetes.