(CNN HEALTH) If current obesity trends don’t change, one in three American adults will have diabetes by 2050, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Friday.
Currently 1 in 10 adults has diabetes and the CDC estimates about 23.6 million people in the United States are living with the disease.
Nearly 6 million don’t know they have diabetes and 57 million Americans are pre-diabetic, meaning they are headed for the condition.
“[Diabetes] is the number one cause of blindness, lower limb amputations, heart attack and stroke, dementia and cancer,” says Ann Albright, director of the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.
“Diabetes is at the heart of a lot of issues,” she adds, which is why people need to take steps to prevent getting this very serious disease.
CDC researchers studied the rise in obesity in the United States in the study, published in the journal Population Health Metrics. They found that the number of Americans living with diabetes is expected to double and possibly even triple.
The overwhelming majority of people will develop type 2 diabetes, where the body loses its ability to produce insulin. This is often the result of poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise.
Only about 5 to 10 percent of people are born with type 1 diabetes, which makes them unable to produce insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Albright said two factors contribute to the expected rise in diabetes cases: people are living longer and doctors are diagnosing them earlier.
The projected rise of diabetes among minorities is particularly concerning, she said. Researchers found African-American, Hispanic, American Indian, and Alaska Native adults are twice as likely as white adults to have diabetes.
Diabetes is at the heart of a lot of health issues, but these predictions do not have to come true, she said.
A large number of type 2 cases can be prevented. A smart nutritious diet and moderate exercise, even just 30 minutes a day of vigorous walking, can help maintain proper blood sugar levels and help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Albright says the CDC has a plan in place to help reduce the number of new cases and to help improve lifestyle choices so people will be more likely to eat healthy and exercise. These prevention efforts specifically target communities where access to healthy food and safe places to exercise aren’t available.