Driven by surging obesity, an aging population and doubly high risks among blacks and Latinos, the American epidemic of diabetes has leaped to historic heights in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday. Diabetes mellitus now afflicts 29 million Americans -- 9.3% of the nation's population.

And 1 in 4 don't know they have the disease, which is thought to increase the risk of heart attack or stroke as much as fourfold.

Releasing a welter of new statistics on the disease, the agency said an additional 86 million American adults -- nearly 1 in 3 -- has prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are abnormally elevated but below the criteria for diagnosing diabetes.

Between 15% and 30% of those with prediabetes will go on to develop the full-fledged metabolic disorder within five years, a transition that can sometimes be averted with substantial weight loss and increased physical activity.

The new statistics are based on national health data gathered in 2012 and represent a nearly 12% increase in the number of those with diabetes since the last statistical report was issued in 2010. In 2012 alone, 1.7 million Americans 20 years and older were newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. African Americans, Latinos and those of American Indian/Alaska Native descent are roughly twice as likely to have diagnosed diabetes as non-Latino white adults, the CDC said.

“These new numbers are alarming and underscore the need for an increased focus on reducing the burden of diabetes in our country,” said Ann Albright, who directs the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. 

The metabolic disorder can be managed with diet, exercise, insulin and oral medication. Diabetics can also reduce the risk of complications, including peripheral neuropathy, vision loss, kidney failure, stroke and heart disease, by managing high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Diabetes and its related complications accounted for $245 billion in medical costs and lost work and wages in 2012, said the nation's disease-tracking agency. That figure is up from $174 billion in 2007.

“Diabetes is costly in both human and economic terms," Albright said in releasing the report. "It’s urgent that we take swift action to effectively treat and prevent this serious disease.”

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