Diabetes cases finally decline

WASHINGTON — Diabetes is finally starting to decline just a bit in the United States after decades on the rise.

According to new numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  reported cases of diabetes fell from 1.7 million new cases in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2014.

“That is very encouraging,” says Dr. Khanh Nguyen, a family physician with Adventist HealthCare, who suggests the local population mirrors the national average.

The drop has been slow — excruciatingly so for some tracking the disease. And while the CDC did not speculate in its report on the cause of the decline in new cases, it is happening at a time when Americans as a whole seem to be more health conscious.

“I would suppose that Americans are a lot more focused on diet and exercise,” suggests Nguyen, noting the success of programs to get kids up and moving, as well as the increasing popularity of fitness apps and those easy-to-wear activity tracking devices.

Diabetes education programs have likely also had an impact — especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods where rates of the disease are high.

“A lot of it has to do with folks getting out into the communities,” says Nguyen, noting in many areas there is still a lack of access to care and nutritious food.

He emphasizes the stakes are high and the burden of diabetes is great — both in terms of human lives and its impact on the ever-rising cost of health care.

Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness, chronic kidney disease and amputation in America, as well as a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

The CDC  says an estimated 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, with a cost to the nation of roughly $240 billion a year.

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