WASHINGTON, June 12 (UPI) -- Three million more people have been diagnosed with diabetes since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last took count in 2010. That brings the total number of Americans with diabetes to a whopping 29 million.
Though large, the numbers aren't all that surprising; the rates of diabetes 1 and 2 have been rising for several years now.
But the 29 million figure, featured in a CDC report published this week, is just the people who have been diagnosed. Many more likely have the disease but are unaware -- and undiagnosed.
The CDC estimates that of the estimated 12.3 percent of the adult population with diabetes, one in four don't know they have it. That's not to mention some 86 million people who have prediabetes, 15 to 30 percent of whom the CDC says will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
"We need people to be more aware of the symptoms and to get screened if they have certain risk factors or are over the age of 45," Ann Albright, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, tells the Boston Globe.
The resulting medical complications from diabetes and prediabetes total more than $245 billion in healthcare costs each year.
Albright says one of the only ways Americans can chip away at these worrisome trends is to improve dietary habits. Even those with prediabetes can avoid the fate of an official diabetes diagnosis by making simple changes, like losing weight and eating healthier.
"Some of the strongest evidence suggests that small changes -- like losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight if you're overweight -- can make the biggest difference," Albright explained.
"Invest in foods that are nutritious," Albright added, "like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains."