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Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - 5:15pm
(CNN) -- Dr. John Anderson isn't surprised by the rapidly growing cost of diabetes in America. New research from the American Diabetes Association shows the total cost of diabetes was $245 billion in 2012 -- a 41% increase from the $174 billion spent in 2007.
"I know of no other disease that's increasing at (about) 8% per year," said Anderson, president of medicine and science for the American Diabetes Association. "That to me isn't surprising, it's troubling."
What is surprising, Anderson said, is that the increased price isn't due to rising health care costs. It's due instead to the "sheer number" of Americans who have diabetes.
"Medication costs have gone up, but overall they haven't gone up significantly," said Matt Petersen, the American Diabetes Association's managing director of medical information and professional engagement. "We have more people with diagnosed diabetes. A lot more of them. That's the burden we face."
An estimated 22.3 million people were living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in 2012, according to the new report, up from 17.5 million in 2007.
The growing population is due to several factors, Petersen said. Diabetes prevalence increases with age, so the aging baby boomer population is attributing to rising costs. The obesity epidemic also plays a role. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unfortunately, not all risk factors can be controlled, Petersen said. African-Americans, American Indians and Asian-Americans are all at a greater risk of developing diabetes than Caucasians, leading researchers to believe there is a genetic link.\
"People fundamentally can't do anything about susceptibility," he said.
Diabetes can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, kidney failure and blindness, according to the CDC. If it's not kept under control, diabetes also can cause infections that may lead to leg or foot amputations.
Approximately 246,000 deaths were attributed to diabetes in 2012, according to the American Diabetes Association's report.
There is good news, Petersen said. Although our diabetes costs are growing, we're spending the dollars effectively.
"We're picking it up earlier and caring for it better," he said. "We're getting the right value for our money."
Anderson and the association hope to continue to spread awareness about diabetes. Addressing the disease on the front end, before it leads to serious complications, will help lower overall costs, he said.
"That's a great way of preventing the growth of this epidemic."