More than half of all Americans will have diabetes or pre-diabetes by the year 2020, a new analysis conducted by the UnitedHealth Group’s Center for Health Reform and Modernization said.

November is National Diabetes Prevention month, and the report, “The United States of Diabetes: Challenges and Opportunities in the Decade Ahead,” offers solutions as to how Americans can improve their health and life expectancy and save money on health care costs.

The investigators of the study also claim that diabetes and pre-diabetes will account for nearly 10 percent of total health care spending at an annual cost of nearly $500 billion. Currently, the nation spends $194 billion on diabetes health care.

“Our new research shows there is a diabetes time bomb ticking in America, but fortunately there are practical steps that can be taken now to defuse it,” Simon Stevens, executive vice president, UnitedHealth Group, and chairman of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, said in a statement. “What is now needed is concerted, national, multi-stakeholder action. Making a major impact on the pre-diabetes and diabetes epidemic will require health plans to engage consumers in new ways, while working to scale nationally some of the most promising preventive care models. Done right, the human and economic benefits for the nation could be substantial.”

The report also shows the connections between obesity and diabetes. Obesity and being overweight are among the primary risk factors for developing diabetes. With more than 2/3 of American adults and 17 percent of children overweight, the risk continues to rise. Currently, over half of adults in the United States who are overweight, or obese, have pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Maintaining weight is also vital to preventing diabetes. Weight gain of 11-16 pounds doubles the risk of type 2 diabetes, while a weight gain of 17-24 pounds triples that risk.

“Because diabetes follows a progressive course, often starting with obesity and then moving to pre-diabetes, there are multiple opportunities to intervene early and prevent this devastating disease before it’s too late,”  said Deneen Vojta, M.D., senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization. Dr. Vojta helped to develop UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance.

What can be done to slow down this rate of diabetes diagnosis over the next 10 years?

According to investigators in the study, Americans will need to get serious about being healthy and combating obesity. Better management will need to be taken to improve medication and care compliance programs that can help to control the disease as well.

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