A new study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control highlights how common type II diabetes is among American adults. The study is summarized in this NIH news release. 6.5% of American adults have diabetes. Even more alarming is that a third of them don’t know they have it.

Type II diabetes has serious potential consequences, and its high prevalence makes it a common cause of disability. Type II diabetes is the most common cause of blindness, kidney failure, and limb amputation, and is a major risk factor for strokes and heart attacks. The many Americans with undiagnosed diabetes are at high risk for these complications, all of which are potentially preventable.

The news release listed the following risk factors that increase the probability of diabetes.

You are at greater risk of developing pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are age 45 or older
  • have a family history of diabetes
  • are overweight
  • have an inactive lifestyle (exercise less than three times a week)
  • are members of a high-risk ethnic population (e.g., African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian American, Pacific Islander)
  • have high blood pressure: 140/90 mm/Hg or higher
  • have an HDL cholesterol less than 35 mg/dL or a triglyceride level 250 mg/dL or higher
  • have had diabetes that developed during pregnancy (gestational diabetes) or have given birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds
  • have polycystic ovary syndrome, a metabolic disorder that affects the female reproductive system
  • have acanthosis nigricans (dark, thickened skin around neck or armpits)
  • have a history of disease of the blood vessels to the heart, brain, or legs
  • have had impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance on previous testing.

Anyone who sees a physician regularly has most likely been tested for diabetes. But if you know someone with some of these risk factors who hasn’t seen a physician in a few years, suggest to him that he get checked by his doctor. What he doesn’t know can definitely hurt him.