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Number of people with diabetes in the Americas tripled since 1980

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bc3d5624-a55a-42ab-8790-27d57674090cPRESS RELEASE – One in 12 inhabitants—some 62 million people—live with diabetes in the Americas. The number has tripled since 1980, and diabetes is currently the fourth-leading cause of death in the hemisphere following heart attacks, strokes and dementias.

If current trends continue, experts estimate that nearly 110 million people in the region will have diabetes by 2040.

The first Global Report on Diabetes from the World Health Organization (WHO) is being launched this week in Geneva and Mexico City as part of the 2016 World Health Day campaign, which dedicated to diabetes. The WHO report highlights the urgency of stepping up efforts to prevent and control diabetes, particularly through public policies that support healthy lifestyles and by ensuring that health systems are able to promptly diagnose, treat and care for people with diabetes.

“The best way to prevent diabetes is for people to follow a healthy diet, avoiding ultra-processed foods and sugary beverages that are high in calories and low in nutrients, and to engage in regular physical activity to help maintain a healthy body weight,” said Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), WHO’s Regional Office for the Americas. Preventing diabetes, however, “is not just an individual responsibility,” Etienne noted. Rather, governments need to adopt effective public policies and measures that help “make the healthy choice the easiest choice to make.”

Diabetes is a progressive chronic disease characterized by high levels of blood glucose. It is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, lower limb amputation and other long-term health problems that have a significant impact on quality of life and increase the risk of premature death. In addition, medical care for diabetes and its complications take a high financial toll on families and health systems. In 2014, diabetes-related health spending in the countries of the Americas amounted to some $382 billion.

The vast majority of people with diabetes suffer from type 2, which is closely linked to overweight and obesity as well as sedentary lifestyles. In the Americas, more than 60% of the population is overweight or obese, largely as a result of lifestyle changes related to development and globalization.

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