Nearly 40% of Americans Are Expected to Have Type 2 Diabetes by 2060, According to New Estimates—Here's What You Can Do Today to Reduce Your Risk

These 10 steps are ~actually~ habits you can stick with for a lifetime. Promise!

Man using glucometer, checking blood sugar level
Photo: Getty Images

Remember encyclopedias, clunky desktop computers with floppy disk drives, portable CD players and rotary phones? Something small enough to fit in your pocket or the palm of your hand—your smartphone—can now accomplish all those tasks and so much more.

With this example and in many ways, our society is getting more streamlined and sharper as the years pass. But our overall cardiovascular health is getting worse … and fast, according to a new report. Compared to 2025, by the year 2060, U.S. rates of type 2 diabetes are expected to jump by nearly 40%, per a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. And several other heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity, will become much more common, too.

Read on to learn more about how the study authors came to this conclusion, plus tips for how you can adjust your lifestyle now to support healthier blood sugar and a stronger heart all at once.

What This New Cardiovascular Disease Study Found

Using information from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau projections for the years 2025 to 2060 as well as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, census counts that note the prevalence of heart risk factors or disease, the researchers created forecasts for groups based on:

  • Sex: Male and female; hopefully more to come in future studies for gender-nonconforming individuals)
  • Age: 18 to 44 years old, 45 to 64, 67 to 79, and 80 and older
  • Race and ethnicity: Asian, Black, Hispanic, white and "other"

When they combined all of the various groups to make a summary of projected rates, they found that between 2025 and 2060:

  • Type 2 diabetes rates will likely increase around 39.3%, to 55 million Americans
  • High cholesterol rates may jump by 27.5%, to 126 million
  • Hypertension rates are expected to increase by 25.1%, to 162 million
  • Obesity rates are anticipated to rise by 18.3%, to 126 million

As a result, the researchers believe that strokes, heart failure and heart disease rates in general will also rise by between 30 and 34%.

"Our analysis projects that the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and diseases will continue to rise with worrisome trends," James L. Januzzi Jr., M.D., a cardiologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cardiology Division and senior author of the study, tells the American College of Cardiology.

After diving into the data predictions for each separate group, they noted the starkest shifts among non-white populations.

"These striking projections will disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority populations in the U.S. Understanding these results will hopefully inform future public health policy efforts and allow us to implement prevention and treatment measures in an equitable manner," Januzzi adds to the American College of Cardiology.

The researchers hope that educating everyone about heart disease risk factors, improving access to quality, low-cost health care, and continuing to research treatment options that work (and that people can maintain) will be key to hopefully proving these sky-high predictions wrong.

"Ultimately, as prevention is imperative to tackle the future burden of cardiovascular disease, the results from this study pose an important challenge," Reza Mohebi, M.D., the Dennis and Marilyn Barry Fellow in Cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and lead author of the study, says in the American College of Cardiology research recap.

10 Steps You Can Take Today to Reduce Your Risk For Type 2 Diabetes

Similar to our guidance for how to manage prediabetes (which refers to what to do if you're diagnosed with elevated blood sugar levels that fall below the full-fledged type 2 diabetes range), your best bet to reduce the chances that you'll get diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is to take a multifaceted approach. We're focusing on type 2 here, by the way, since that's the disease that's expected to have the highest rate of increase.

Here are 10 habits you can start doing today to reduce your risk for diabetes—and, likely, any of the aforementioned cardiovascular-related diseases.

  1. Swap water, sparkling water, tea or coffee for sugar-sweetened drinks.
  2. Take steps to lose 5% of your total body weight (say, 10 pounds for a 200-pound person) if you're currently overweight.
  3. Strength train for 30 minutes, then do it once more later this week (a rate proven to impact blood sugar).
  4. Aim for seven hours of sleep.
  5. Trade one serving of saturated fats, found in animal products like butter and cheese, for monounsaturated fats, which you can score in avocados, nuts and plant-based oils like olive oil and canola oil.
  6. Try to fill at least half of your plate at every meal with fruits and vegetables.
  7. Stock up on these nine grocery store items to help you maintain more consistent blood sugar.
  8. Build a week's-worth of three-ingredient breakfasts to start each day on a nutritious note.
  9. Work up to 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, such as three 30-minute walks and those two half-hour strength sessions we just mentioned.
  10. Stick to one alcoholic drink per day if you're a woman, or up to two drinks max if you're a man.

The Bottom Line

In this new study, scientists predict that several cardiometabolic diseases will become much more common by 2060—most notably, type 2 diabetes.

First-degree relatives of someone who has been diagnosed with type 2 are three times as likely as their peers with no genetic diabetes risk to receive their own diagnosis, according to earlier research published in the World Journal of Diabetes. Family history or not, the diabetes-smart steps mentioned above can help reduce your risk for diabetes or any heart-related disease.

For personalized guidance and to check in about your own best next steps, schedule a checkup with your health care provider.

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