Close to 26 million Americans have diabetes, and 79 million have prediabetes, or abnormally high blood sugar levels, according to new estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than a quarter of those with diabetes 7 million Americans do not know they have it, the CDC added.

While the numbers are significantly higher than the CDC's estimates in 2008 in the case of prediabetes, nearly 40 percent higher they were derived with the help of a diagnostic test that wasn't available for previous estimates.

Still, more people are developing diabetes. The rise is due in part to the nation's rising rate of obesity, which is a risk for developing diabetes. And people are now living longer with the disease thanks to better management, said Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation.
The estimated number of Americans with diabetes increased by about 3 million, and the number with prediabetes by about 22 million.

For Americans, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure , nontraumatic lower-limb amputations and new cases of adult blindness, the CDC said. The disease is also a major cause of heart disease and stroke, and is the seventh leading cause of death .

"These distressing numbers show how important it is to prevent Type 2 diabetes and to help those who have diabetes manage the disease to prevent serious complications, Albright said. "We know that a structured lifestyle program that includes losing weight and increasing physical activity can prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes."

The estimates show that diabetes affects 8.3 percent of Americans of all ages, and 11.3 percent of those 20 and older. Prediabetes affects 35 percent of adults age 20 and older.

Among people 20 and older, the disease is more common among blacks than non-Hispanic whites, and slightly more common among men than woman, the CDC said. About 13 million men and 12.6 million women age 20 or older have diabetes. The disease affects 15.7 million non-Hispanic whites (10.2 percent of that population group) and 4.9 million blacks (18.7 percent of that population).

Diabetes contributes to $116 billion in direct medical costs, plus $58 billion in indirect costs, such as money lost due to disability, job loss and premature death, the CDC estimated.

The CDC is employing several strategies to reduce the number of new cases of diabetes. "It's a multi-tiered approach," Albright told MyHealthNewsDaily.

One strategy is the National Diabetes Prevention Program. This program, which will be implemented at a community level, uses lifestyle changes to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes.

In addition, the CDC will work to make it easier for people to make healthy choices. This means improving access to fruits and vegetables, strengthening school wellness programs and making it convenient and safe to use places of physical activity, Albright said.

The new estimates were derived from various data systems of the CDC, the Indian Health Service's National Patient Information Reporting System, the U.S. Renal Data System of the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Census Bureau, and published studies.

Pass it on: More than 100 million Americans now have diabetes or prediabetes, according to the CDC.

Follow MyHealthNewsDaily on Twitter @MyHealth_MHND.