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Number of New Diabetes Diagnoses Trending Down In U.S., Kentucky

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The number of newly diagnosed diabetes cases in the U.S. has significantly decreased, according to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

From 1991 to 2009, the number of new cases of diabetes for people in the U.S. aged 18 to 79 increased sharply from 573,000 to more than 1.7 million. The new report shows that from 2009 to 2014, the number of new cases of diabetes decreased to about 1.4 million.

Theresa Renn, manager of the Kentucky Diabetes Prevention and Control Program, said the state's statistics are mostly paralleling the national figures.

"They are also coming down as well. It looks like we may have had a little bit higher peak and are also coming down nicely as well," she said.

Currently, Kentucky has 7.6 new diabetes cases per 1,000 adults. Kentucky's peak, in 2007, was 11.2 new cases per 1,000 adults. The 2015 Kentucky Diabetes Report shows the prevalence of diabetes has increased from 240,000 adults  in 2000 to 359,000 adults in 2013.

Diabetes occurs when blood glucose levels are above normal. When a person's body doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should, sugar builds up in the blood. The disease can cause heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease, which accounts for about 95 percent of diagnoses. Type 2 diabetes is also preventable.

Renn said the decline in new cases may be attributed to a number of factors.

"Increasing awareness of diabetes, particularly pre-diabetes. Finding people that have pre-diabetes where their numbers are higher than normal but not quite high enough to diagnose them with diabetes," she said.

Renn said finding people who are pre-diabetic and helping them reduce their risk of developing diabetes later can also lower the incidence of the disease.

She said behavioral and lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity and improving diet, can help reduce the risk of getting diabetes, but it can be challenging.

"Our diets are not always what they should be, and even if people work on that a lot of times they do OK for a little while and then they tend to go back to old habits. It's hard to do and it's hard to maintain," Renn said.

Teri Wood, chronic disease epidemiologist for the Kentucky Department of Public Health, said there are also social conditions that are connected to increased risk of diabetes, including poverty and education level.

"Whether it's because people have less access to healthy food, less knowledge about how to eat healthfully, perhaps less access to places to be physically active … and access to health care can be very important," Wood said.

Kentucky is part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program. The program, led by the CDC, is a year-long program that helps participants make lifestyle changes. The program provides a lifestyle coach and a support group for participants.

"We know that folks at high risk who go into those programs are showing that they can decrease their risk of developing diabetes by 50 percent," Renn said.

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