Diabetes is one of the major health challenges faced across the United States, but these findings suggest that the prevalence of the disease is not growing as rapidly as often claimed, Smith said.
The study examined reasons for the rising rate of diabetes over time. The three most important reasons by far were increases in excessive weight, the transmission of diabetes from parents to children as the disease spreads, and the decline in undiagnosed diabetes. In contrast, rising levels of education actually served to reduce the prevalence of the disease.
Smith examined information from several waves of the federal National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted periodically from 1976 to 2002. The survey collects information from a nationally representative sample of adults through personal interviews, physical exams and laboratory tests. Blood tests conducted as a part of the survey allow researchers to measure undiagnosed diabetes.
Among the men studied from 1999 to 2002, Smith found that 6 percent of those with a high school diploma or more education were diagnosed with diabetes, while nearly 10 percent of those who did not obtain a high school diploma were diagnosed with the disease.
Smith found that those in the lowest education group were more likely to be Latino or African-American, less likely to engage in vigorous physical exercise and more likely to be overweight or smoke cigarettes.
Even after diagnosis, people with less education had more difficulty successfully managing the complex regimes of medicines and making the lifestyle changes needed to reduce the consequences of the illness, according to the study.
Smith said one troubling finding from the study was that people who were obese were more likely to have undiagnosed diabetes, despite the fact that o
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