After decades of growth in the prevalence of diabetes in the United States, the number of new cases of diabetes has finally begun to fall, signaling an important and positive shift in the country’s overall health.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the number of new cases of diabetes for patients between the ages of 18 and 79 more than tripled from 1980 to 2014 — from 493,000 to an astounding 1.4 million new cases of diabetes in 2014. From 1991 to 2009, the number of new cases went from 573,000 to more than 1.7 million.
Finally, at long last, the number of new cases has finally started to decline. In 2009, the rate of new diagnoses hit a peak of more than 1.7 million. Each year since then, however, those numbers have dropped, reaching 1.4 million by 2014. Although the decline is not substantial, especially given the steep incline of new diabetes cases in earlier years, the data does align with cautious evidence to suggest that Americans are thinking more carefully about their diets. Even in Alabama, which has the highest rate of diabetes in the country at 12.7 percent, people are starting to make important changes.
One woman, Lynette Carpenter, got serious about her health soon after her cousin’s diabetes resulted in a leg amputation. Carter “started to make a dish she called Sexy Pork Chops, involving a bell pepper, an onion and the oven,” according to the New York Times. “She weaned herself off Coca-Cola, going from about 50 cans a week to fewer than seven. And she started walking, leaving rubber bands in her mailbox to pull onto her arm — one for each mile walked — to remind her how many miles she had gone. The result made her doctor proud: She lost 42 pounds, and two years later has still not developed full-blown diabetes.”
Another woman, Robin Williams, got scared straight after watching My 600-lb Life on TLC and started packing her own lunch instead of buying fast food.
“It’s not yet time to have a parade,” Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center and Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Times — especially considering that the rate of American obesity is at an all-time high of 38 percent.
However, Dr. Nathan said, “It has finally entered into the consciousness of our population that the sedentary lifestyle is a real problem, that increased body weight is a real problem.”