All around the world, a person dies from diabetes every seven seconds, health officials said.
A staggering number of people – about 366 million – are suffering from the sometimes deadly disease and the global numbers are not letting up, the International Diabetes Federation said.
The federation called for concrete measures to stop the epidemic, urging officials focusing on chronic diseases at a United Nations meeting next week to commit to specific targets to prevent cases and to invest in more research. Experts also said diabetes care should be integrated into local health clinics.
"The clock is ticking for the world's leaders," Jean Claude Mbanya, the group's president, said in a statement. "We expect action from their meeting next week at the United Nations that will halt diabetes' relentlessly upwards trajectory."
The figures were announced in Lisbon, Portugal, during the European meeting of the group, an umbrella organization that represents associations from more than 160 countries.
Although anybody can suffer from diabetes, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian-Americans seem to be the groups more disproportionately at risk.
About 11.8 percent of Hispanics have diabetes compared to 7.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
Among Latinos, Puerto Ricans are the group with the highest incidence of diabetes, 13.8 percent, followed by Mexican-Americans, 13.3 percent; and Cubans, Central Americans and South Americans, 7.6 percent.
It estimated that diabetes causes 4.6 million deaths every year and that health systems spend $465 billion annually fighting the disease. That includes both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes mainly affects children and young adults, who are unable to make insulin. Type 2 diabetes is more common and is often tied to obesity. It develops when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to break down glucose, inflating blood sugar levels.
The disease can be managed with diet, exercise and medication but chronically high blood sugar levels causes nerve damage, which can result in kidney disease, blindness and amputation.
In June, a study published in the medical journal Lancet estimated the global number of diabetes had more than doubled in the last three decades and put the figure at 347 million.
Experts said much of the rise in diabetes cases was due to aging populations — since diabetes typically hits in middle age — and population growth, but that obesity rates had also fueled the disease's spread.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.