Diabetes currently affects over 246 million people worldwide and over half of these people are women. Already considered an "epidemic," researchers expect these rates to increase to 380 million by 2025. In the US, almost 21 million children and adults have diabetes -- including 9.7 million women -- and almost one third of them do not know it. Diabetes can be especially hard on women. The burden of diabetes on women is unique, because the disease can affect both mothers and their unborn children. Diabetes can cause difficulties during pregnancy such as a miscarriage or a baby born with birth defects. Women with diabetes are also more likely to have a heart attack, and at a younger age, than women without diabetes.
Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States, and it has no cure. For women who do not currently have diabetes, pregnancy brings the risk of gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes develops in 2% to 5% of all pregnancies but disappears when a pregnancy is over. Women who have had gestational diabetes or have given birth to a baby weighting more than 9 pounds are at an increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
The prevalence of diabetes is at least 2-4 times higher among African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, and Asian/Pacific Islander women than among white women. The risk for diabetes also increases with age. Because of the increasing lifespan of women and the rapid growth of minority populations, the number of women in the United States at high risk for diabetes and its complications is increasing. Because women are often influential in affecting behavior change in their own children and families, focusing prevention efforts on them is a good way to improve not only their health but also the health of those they love.