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Diabetes can be a serious, costly, and potentially fatal disease. People with diabetes have blood glucose (blood sugar) levels that are higher than normal. Diabetes develops when the body stops making insulin, or stops using it properly. Insulin is required for helping blood glucose get into the body's cells. Without insulin, blood glucose levels build up in the blood. A blood test is used to diagnose diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body stops making insulin and usually develops in individuals under the age of 30. The risk of type 2 diabetes increases in individuals who are overweight or obese, older, sedentary, and who belong to a minority racial or ethnic group. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is first diagnosed in pregnancy. It usually disappears after delivery but women with a history of diabetes have an excess risk of develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

There is no cure for diabetes but with proper medication and lifestyle choices, it often can be controlled. Diabetes increases the risk for serious complications, including heart disease and stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputation.

Why it's important

About 154,000 Utahns have been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that can have devastating consequences. It is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower-extremity amputation and renal failure. It is also the leading cause of blindness among adults younger than 75. It is one of the leading causes of heart disease.

Diabetes places an enormous burden on healthcare resources, approximately $245 billion is spent annually (in direct medical costs [$176 billion] and in indirect costs [$69 billion] such as disability, work loss, and premature death).1 In Utah, more than a billion dollars each year are spent on direct and indirect costs of diabetes.

Currently, about 84 million Americans aged 20 and older have pre-diabetes, a condition that puts them at high risk for developing diabetes. For many individuals, taking small steps, such as losing 5-7 percent of their weight or increasing physical activity, can help them delay or prevent developing diabetes.

1. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014.

What is known

The prevalence of diabetes is likely to continue to rise steadily, both nationally and in Utah. Several factors contribute to this increase. Increasing rates of obesity and sedentary lifestyles add to the number of people at risk for developing diabetes, while improvements in medical care mean people with diabetes are living longer.3

3. Boyle et al.: Projection of the year 2050 burden of diabetes in the US adult population: dynamic modeling of incidence, mortality, and prediabetes prevalence. Population Health Metrics 2010 8:29, accessed on 6/17/2015 from

Who is at risk

Anyone can develop diabetes, but the risk is greater for those who are older, overweight or obese, physically inactive, or belong to a minority racial or ethnic group. As the Utah population ages, and as the proportion of high-risk minority ethnic and racial groups in the population increases, a greater percentage of Utahns will be at risk for developing diabetes.

How to reduce risk

Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for developing diabetes. The risk of developing diabetes can be substantially reduced through weight loss and regular physical activity. The Diabetes Primary Prevention Study (DPP) showed that weight loss and participation in regular physical activity can significantly decrease the risk. The DPP clinical trial included over 3,000 people who had impaired fasting glucose and were at an increased risk for developing diabetes. Participants who engaged in moderately intense physical activity for 30 minutes per day and lost 5 to 7 percent of their body weight decreased their risk of diabetes dramatically. This behavioral activity was effective for all participants in the study, regardless of age or ethnic group.4 Some risk factors cannot be modified, such as older age or membership in a minority racial or ethnic group. Nevertheless, risk can be substantially reduced through adhering to a nutritious diet and participating in regular physical activity.

4. Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. N Engl J Med 2002;346:393-403, accessed on 6/19/2015 from

How It's Tracked

Prevalence of diabetes is tracked annually using self-reported data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Adults aged 18 and over are asked whether they had ever been told by a doctor, nurse, or other health professional that they had diabetes. Women who report they had diabetes only during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) are not included in the count.

Diabetes - Adults (BRFSS)

Diabetes - Adolescents

Diabetes and pregnancy (PRAMS)

Hospitalizations: Diagnosis - NCHS 50 leading causes: Diabetes mellitus

Emergency department visits: Diagnosis - NCHS 50 leading causes: Diabetes mellitus

Mortality: Cause of Death - NCHS 50 leading causes: Diabetes mellitus

The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Tue, 16 April 2024 19:02:45 from Utah Department of Health and Human Services, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Fri, 22 Mar 2024 08:51:31 MDT