SALT LAKE CITY — The number of people with diabetes is growing quickly across the nation — but there are millions more who don't even know they suffer from the disease.
According to new numbers released by the International Diabetes Federation, 371 million people have diabetes worldwide. The number is a drastic increase from last year's 366 million diagnosed diabetics. In the U.S., 18.8 million people have diabetes but another 7 million more are estimated to suffer from it without knowing, according to an advocate in Utah.
Brett Kassing has become an advocate, a fundraiser and a loud voice for the American Diabetes Association of Utah since his grandson Carter was in the hospital three years ago.
"I think the most alarming thing I heard was, 'your grandson has diabetes. If you take care of it, he will live a long healthy life. If you do not, he'll die,' " Kassing said.
Carter has Type 1 Diabetes, which is caused when a person's body does not naturally produce insulin, a hormone that helps convert sugar and starches into energy. At just 3-years-old, Carter joined 8.3 percent of the national population who are diabetics.
Many people, he adds, do not know they have the disease or know that they are near the onset. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented with better lifestyle, exercise and diet.
"(There are) 180,000 people in Utah who have diabetes. You can add to that the people who don't know they have diabetes, or the onset of Type 2 diabetes," Kassing said.
Kassing says the nation spends $116 billion for direct medical costs of diabetes.
"It's the leading cause of heart disease, kidney failure, your eyesight," Kassing said. "I can't even comprehend the amount of money spent in the medical industry on diabetes."
He says he doesn't think a cure for Type 1 will come during his grandson's lifetime, but the research projects going on in Utah will help make his life better.