As many as half of U.S. adults have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Many have no idea they're already very sick -- or are on their way to becoming so. Experts aren't a bit surprised at the findings.

The costs of ignoring what can only be described as an epidemic -- to our physical well-being, our emotional happiness and our nation's finances -- could be catastrophic.

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A study last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association said that 12 percent to 14 percent of U.S. adults have diabetes, a disease that causes high blood sugar, usually because of poor insulin production. The study also found that 37 percent to 38 percent of American adults have pre-diabetes, which can be arrested with small changes.

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Scientists and physicians say the findings track the growing rate of obesity, which often goes along with diabetes. Now evidence is mounting that diabetes also might be linked to Alzheimer's disease, making it even more urgent to stem this tide.

According to the study, many people with diabetes or pre-diabetes don't become aware until the disease causes other problems. We all need to be screened for it. In its early stages, the condition often can be dealt with through diet, exercise and weight loss. Even if medication is necessary, controlling diabetes means a better chance of controlling heart disease, kidney problems and other complications.

Get screened. If needed, get treated. And be sensible about weight, exercise and diet. This kind of epidemic can be slowed and treated, and we owe it to ourselves and each other to do so.