The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015 by highlighting the progress that has been made in fighting the disease and focusing on the work that still needs to be done.
The association was founded in 1940 to address the rise of diabetes, a metabolic condition that keeps the body from converting glucose into fuel and can cause complications such as kidney damage, stroke and heart disease.
About 250 people attended the ADA’s first annual meeting in June 1941, six months before Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was thrust into World War II. Charles Best, a key pioneer of diabetes research for 20 years, gave the keynote address.
“We’ve come a long way since 1940 in our research achievements, leadership in diabetes advocacy, and programs and resources to help provide those living with diabetes and their families a better way of life,” the ADA says on its website.
But the disease remains a stubborn foe.
More than 29 million Americans, or about 9% of the population, had diabetes in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was up slightly from 2010, when diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death nationwide with 69,000 fatalities.
Senior citizens are at particular risk. About 26% of Americans age 65 or older had diabetes in 2012, or almost 12 million seniors.
Centers for Disease Control statistics also show that diabetes occurs more often in men than women, by 13.6% to 11.2%. Among racial and ethnic groups, American Indians (15.9%), non-Hispanic blacks (13.2%), Hispanics (12.8%) and Asian-Americans (9%) also were more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes compared with non-Hispanic whites (7.6%).
The 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report estimates that average medical expenditures for people with diabetes are more than double the costs for individuals without the disease. Those medical expenses totaled $176 billion in 2012.
Being overweight and living a sedentary lifestyle are key risk factors for diabetes. So is belonging to one of the racial groups with high incidences of the disease, or having a family member with diabetes. However, research has found that 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week can result in weight loss that may help prevent the disease.
Twelve years after being founded, the ADA began to fund its first research grants. The organization says it has invested more than $700 million in nearly 4,500 projects since 1952, bringing innovations in treatment and testing. The ADA cites a 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that found there were significant reductions in incidences of diabetes complications such as stroke and amputations as a result of advances in preventive care and research since the 1990s.
As recently as January 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved marketing of mobile medical apps that allow diabetes patients to remotely share data about their blood sugar levels with caregivers through devices such as an iPhone.