Even the U.S. economy will be affected as potentially healthy people find themselves unable to work. "You're losing folks in the prime of their years, and that has an impact on society and our economy," Funnell said.
Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken, both large and small, to help fight diabetes.
On the large-scale side, Kirkman said, governments should spend more money on physical education in schools and on public transportation, instead of new road construction.
"We know people who take public transportation are more physically active," she said. "Do we choose to encourage that?"
On a more personal level, people can make healthy lifestyle choices and help pass those choices along to their children, Funnell said.
But is anyone listening and willing to try?
"The messages are those same old 'eat healthy and exercise,' and we hear those to the point where we think, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, everybody knows we need to do these things,' " Funnell said.
However, even small measures -- standing more often during the day or walking during a lunch break or eating an apple instead of ice cream -- can help make a difference.
"Maybe it would seem to outsiders as a small step, but it's just taking that one step and the next step and the next," Funnell said. "Like global warming, it's saying, 'What can I do for myself and my family this week, this month, this year, that will make a difference?' "
To learn more, visit the American Diabetes Association.
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