Prevalence of diabetes has increased worldwide. In 1990 the prevalence of self-reported diabetes was 2.9% in the United States, increasing to almost 8% in the first decade of the 21st century. Because self-report misses persons with undiagnosed diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates total prevalence of diabetes in adults 20 or older approaches 11% of the U.S. population, and those with impaired fasting glucose (prediabetes), about 26% (2003-2006).

In both men and women the prevalence of diabetes increases with age; the rate now is almost 1 in 4 for those 60 years and older. In those over 20, American Indians and Alaskan Natives have high prevalence rates (16.5%). Blacks (11.8%) and Hispanics/Latinos (10.4%) also have rates greater than whites (6.6%). Education is inversely proportional, with the highest prevalence among those not finishing high school. Perhaps because of its effect on weight, smoking reduces the prevalence of diabetes, although ex-smokers have an even higher prevalence. The Southeast has a much higher prevalence than other parts of the United States. Regional differences are probably explained by differences in the populations cited, as well as cultural factors.

The lifetime risk of acquiring diabetes is high and is climbing. More than one third of those born in the year 2000 will eventually become diabetic; risk for men is 32.8%, and risk for women is 38.5% and higher risk at all ages. The lifetime risk for Hispanics is about 50% (45.4% for men, 52.5% for women); for black women, 49.0%; and for black men, 40.2%.

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