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1 in 8 Americans diagnosed with type 2 diabetes: survey

Insulin. More than one-third of poll participants said they had either been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes themselves or knew a family member who had.
Insulin. More than one-third of poll participants said they had either been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes themselves or knew a family member who had.
Melissa P/Flickr Creative Commons

A new poll of nearly 2,100 American adults suggests that one in eight people have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Researchers called the findings "staggering" in a press release.

The new set of numbers further underscores the increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the U.S., as well as the ways the disease affects people who are undiagnosed.

More than one-third of those polled said they had either been diagnosed with the disease themselves or knew a family member who had.

In late 2012, local health officials released a report that said just about 1 in 10 L.A. County adults has diabetes. In South Los Angles, the same is true of nearly 12 percent of the area's residents.

Type 2 diabetes is lifelong condition marked by high levels of blood sugar, which can lead to serious eye, kidney, nerve, heart and blood vessel problems. Obesity, another all-too-common condition on the southside, is a major risk factor.

One in eight adults in the U.S. means about 29 million people, said pollsters. Even at that level of prevalence, the survey also suggested a low level of awareness about the disease: Only 21 percent of people reported considering themselves well-versed in the disease. That means the remaining 79 percent could have the disease but not know it – since they probably don't know what to look for.

Dr. José Cervantes, the assistant physician in charge at Kaiser Permanente's South Los Angeles Medical Offices, said that isn't uncommon. In fact, he says, he sees a lot patients with "prediabetes," a condition in which blood sugar levels are abnormally high but not quite diabetic. At that prediabetic point, he added, prevention is still entirely possible.

"Many of my patients who have been seeing me for years will not be aware exactly of what they need to do with their diet, what it means to be diabetic, how it affects their organs," said Cervantes.

The doctor noted a few things that should prompt patients to visit a health provider if they experience them:

All of those could be signs of diabetes, Cervantes said.

"If you're feeling [those symptoms], you shouldn't just attribute it to, 'Well, I'm getting older,'" he said. "It really doesn't matter what age you are if you're feeling those things. You should definitely come in."

The good news, according to the poll, is that more than two-thirds of those who were already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes considered themselves either "extremely" or "very" knowledgeable about their condition. Still, 35 percent of respondents said their diabetes was only "somewhat controlled," with an additional 5 percent saying it wasn't at all well-controlled.

A lot people understand the risk factors that lead to diabetes, though – 79 percent understand that being overweight increases a person's risk of the disease, and there appears to be widespread understanding of the role played by diet (74 percent) and a sedentary lifestyle (62 percent).

Photo by Melissa P via Flickr Creative Commons.