WASHINGTON, DC -- More than 24 million people, or 8 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes, according to new 2007 prevalence data estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number represents an increase of more than 3 million diabetics in approximately two years.

In addition to the 24 million with diabetes, another 57 million people are estimated to have pre-diabetes, a condition that puts people at increased risk for diabetes. Among people with diabetes, those who do not know they have the disease decreased from 30 percent to 25 percent over a two-year period.

“These new estimates have both good news and bad news,” says Dr. Ann Albright, director of the CDC Division of Diabetes Translation. “It is concerning to know that we have more people developing diabetes, and these data are a reminder of the importance of increasing awareness of this condition, especially among people who are at high risk. On the other hand, it is good to see that more people are aware that they have diabetes. That is an indication that our efforts to increase awareness are working, and more importantly, that more people are better prepared to manage this disease and its complications.”

Diabetes is a disease associated with high levels of blood glucose resulting from defects in insulin production that causes sugar to build up in the body. It is the seventh-leading cause of death in the country and can cause serious health complications, including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.

Among adults, diabetes increased in both men and women and in all age groups, but still disproportionately affects the elderly. Almost 25 percent of the population 60 years and older had diabetes in 2007. And, as in previous years, disparities exist among ethnic groups and minority populations, including Native Americans, blacks and Hispanics. After adjusting for population age differences between the groups, the rate of diagnosed diabetes was highest among Native Americans and Alaska Natives (16.5 percent). This was followed by blacks (11.8 percent) and Hispanics (10.4 percent), which includes rates for Puerto Ricans (12.6 percent), Mexican Americans (11.9 percent) and Cubans (8.2 percent). By comparison, the rate for Asian Americans was 7.5 percent with whites at 6.6 percent.

CDC also is releasing estimates of diagnosed diabetes for all counties in the United States. Derived from the agency’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) and census data, the estimates provide a clearer picture of areas within states that have higher diabetes rates. Nationally, the data indicate increased diabetes rates in areas of the Southeast and Appalachia that have traditionally been recognized as being at higher risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease and stroke.

“These data are an important step in identifying the places in a state that have the greatest number of people affected by diabetes,” Albright says. “If states know which communities or areas have more people with diabetes, they can use that information to target their efforts or tailor them to meet the needs of specific communities.”