10 percent of world will have diabetes by 2035: Report

The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) recently published “Guidelines for Improving the Care of Older Adults with Diabetes Mellitus: 2013 Update” and recommends an individualized approach to diabetes care among older adults, taking into account the patient's goals and preferences, their functional status, and co-existing conditions. istockphoto

One in 10 people globally will have diabetes by 2035, according to a concerning new report.

To highlight World Diabetes Day which takes place each year on Nov. 14, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) released its sixth edition of the Diabetes Atlas. The report estimates how many adults between the ages of 20 to 79 will be affected by the disease in the future.

By the end of this year, the IDF estimates that 382 million people will have diabetes around the world. By 2035, that number will skyrocket to 592 million. For comparison, about 285 million people had the disease just four years ago.

Eighty percent of people with the disease live in low- and middle-income countries, and most of them are between 40 and 59 years old. The organization also said that one person dies from diabetes every six seconds, or about 5.1 million deaths annually.

"Diabetes is a disease of development. The misconception that diabetes is 'a disease of the wealthy' is still held, to the detriment of desperately needed funding to combat the pandemic. In coming years we have much to do in making the case for those who have diabetes now and will have in the future," Michael Hirst, president of the IDF, said in a statement.

When it comes to the U.S., the IDF estimates that 9.2 percent of the population will have a form of diabetes by the end of this year. That's about 24.4 million people who will have it by the end of 2013 --  6.8 million of whom will go undiagnosed. About 192,725 Americans will die from the disease this year..

The IDF estimates that the percentage of U.S. residents affected by diabetes will increase to 11.6 by 2035, which will be 29.7 million people.

About 8.3 percent of the U.S. population had a form of diabetes in 2011, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes is a disease that causes people to have higher blood glucose, or sugar, levels than normal. The vast majority of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, a problem in which the person is not sufficiently using a hormone called insulin. Insulin is responsible for breaking down sugars and using energy derived from them.

Patients have to control their diets and may have to take additional insulin and other medications to balance out their blood sugar levels. If left untreated, diabetes can cause complications including glaucoma, cataracts, other eye problems, neuropathy (nerve damage) that leads to numbness in the feet, skin infections, high blood pressure, depression, hearing loss and oral health problems.

IDF points out that the number of people with diabetes, especially the Type 2 form, has increased in every country. The number of total diabetes cases have increased 4.4 percent over the last two years, now affecting more than 5 percent of the global population.

"We haven't seen any kind of stabilizing, any kind of reversal," Leonor Guariguata, an epidemiologist and project coordinator for IDF's Diabetes Atlas, said to Businessweek. "Diabetes continues to be a very big problem and is increasing even beyond previous projections."

According to the report, despite better treatments and improving education strategies, the battle to protect people from diabetes and its complications "is being lost."

Dr. Juliana Chan, a professor of medicine and therapeutics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the BBC that in China, she feels the rising rates of diabetes are due to different genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors not helped by the fact that the country is becoming modernized rapidly.

China had the highest total number of citizens with the disease, with an estimated 98.4 million to be diagnosed by the end of 2013.

"It is typically an ageing disease, but the data shows that the young and middle-aged are most vulnerable. It is prevalent in obese people but emerging data suggests that for lean people with diabetes the outcome can be worse," she explained.

She said the disease is tricky because it has a lot of "paradoxes," but she is hopeful that the country has the ability and money to fix their health care system to address the growing problems.

The report's authors call for diabetes to be placed high on the agendas of health ministers throughout the world.

"IDF Diabetes Atlas' latest figures provide a worrying indication of the future impact of diabetes as a major threat to global development," they said.

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