World Diabetes Day 2012
Diabetes Around the World
Diabetes affects millions of people in the United States, and in other countries, too. Here’s a look at the worldwide epidemic.
By Jennifer Acosta Scott
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPH
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) just released the latest edition of their Diabetes Atlas, a report that breaks down the prevalence of diabetes by country. About 371 million people worldwide are currently living with diabetes — up 5 million from the 2011 report — and that figure is projected to rise to 552 million by 2030. Currently, half of all people with diabetes are undiagnosed.
Deaths from diabetes are also increasing: By the end of the year, 4.8 million people will have died from diabetes complications, compared to 4 million in 2012. Half of all deaths will be in people under age 60.
“As millions of undiagnosed people develop diabetes complications, we can expect to see the mortality rate climb,” says Jean Claude Mbanya, President of the International Diabetes Federation. “On World Diabetes Day, we want to raise awareness that this disease can be controlled and in some cases prevented.”
Which countries have been hardest hit by the diabetes epidemic? Read on to find out.
No. 1: China
China once again has the largest diabetes population in the world, with 92.3 million living with the disease. It is estimated that as many as 20 percent of the residents of some of China’s cities are overweight, a factor that can increase one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, more than 85 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. However, overweight people can significantly reduce their risk of developing diabetes by losing just 5 to 7 percent of their body weight.
No. 2: India
This country of nearly 1.2 billion people has more than 63 million people with diabetes. About 25 percent of India’s residents live below the poverty line, which may be a factor in the diabetes epidemic. Studies have shown that people with low incomes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than others — perhaps because of their limited ability to purchase healthy foods.
“A lot of very high-calorie foods are among the cheapest, particularly among fast foods,” says Joseph McCormick, MD, a diabetes epidemiologist and regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health in Brownsville.
No. 3: United States
Despite spending more on health care per person than most countries and spending more on diabetes than any other country, more than 24 million American adults have diabetes. Another 79 million have prediabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are elevated but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. However, people with prediabetes may be able to avoid developing full-blown diabetes by losing weight.
No. 4: Brazil
Brazil moved up one spot on the list this year, as the country’s number of people living with diabetes increased from 12.4 million to 13.6 million. Of the millions of people in Brazil with diabetes, many are unaware of their condition, which can prevent them from getting the treatment they need. “People can walk around for a long time with a very high level of blood glucose,” Dr. McCormick warns.
No. 5: Russia
About 12.7 million people in Russia have diabetes, making them the country with the fifth largest diabetes population. About 30 percent of females in the country are obese, a condition characterized by a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Like people who are overweight, obese people have an increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes — according to one study, adult diabetics were one and a half times more likely to be obese than their non-diabetic counterparts.
No. 6: Mexico
Mexico has 10.6 million people living with diabetes. Little wonder then, that it’s the leading cause of death in the country. According to a recent study, only four in 10 residents of the United States-Mexican border area who have type 2 diabetes regularly monitor their blood sugar — an important step in successfully managing diabetes.
No. 7: Indonesia
Indonesia, which barely made the top 10 last year, has only 2.9 physicians for every 10,000 people within its borders, which may help explain the 7.6 million cases of diabetes that it is dealing with. More doctors means more access to health care, which could help some people change unhealthy habits before they develop diabetes. “In doctors’ offices, they can promote physical activity and health education,” Barcelo says. “That may have a big impact.”
No. 8: Egypt
The latest IDF figures show that 7.5 million people in Egypt have diabetes. Egypt also ranks among the world’s top three nations with the most obese women: According to the World Health Organization, nearly 76 percent of Egyptian women are overweight, and 48 percent are obese, which may help explain the growth in type 2 diabetes in this country.
No. 9: Japan
Japan saw a greater drop in diabetes rates than any other country in the top 10 this year — down from 10.7 million to 7.1 million. For Japanese people, ethnicity may play a strong role in diabetes risk. Some researchers believe that people of Asian heritage may be more likely to carry genes that make them more susceptible to developing diabetes. “They seem to have, perhaps, some propensity,” McCormick says. “[Asian] people tend to get diabetes with lower BMIs than [people] in other parts of the world.”
No. 10: Pakistan
A newcomer to the top 10, Pakistan now has 6.6 million people living with diabetes. (Last year, Bangladesh rounded out the list.) More than 50 percent of people living with diabetes in the Middle East are undiagnosed. The only area with greater numbers is Africa, where 81.2 percent of people with the disease don’t know they have it.
Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors. Everyday Health medical director Dr. Mallika Marshall shares key risk factors for type 2 diabetes, as well as potential warning signs. The web site also has a video of Dr. Marshall’s presentation: http://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes-pictures/diabetes-around-the-world.aspx?xid=aol_eh-endo_2_20121119_&aolcat=APS&icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl42|sec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D236815#/slide-12