WHO Warns of Soaring Diabetes Rates Globally

Nearly 1 billion people could suffer from the disease in 20 years, WHO says.

There are currently 422 million people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes -- quadruple the number since 1980, according to the WHO, which said it picked diabetes as the theme for World Health Day because the disease directly impacts millions of people of globally and the prevalence of cases have been steadily increasing in recent decades.

Obesity rates have also been increasing worldwide, and in 2014, one in three adults were overweight and one in 10 people globally were obese, according to the WHO.

The WHO is calling on a "global fight" against diabetes and said there have already been 1.5 million deaths related to the disease.

“If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain,” WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said in a statement today. “Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.”

Dr. Gregg Faiman, an endocrinologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said fighting diabetes can be tricky and even those who drop weight and go into remission from type 2 diabetes are always at increased of developing the disease.

"If you fall back at habits that you’re using before [you lost weight,] it’s more likely to reoccur," Faiman told ABC News today.

He pointed out having diabetes means an increased risk for a host of health problems, including kidney disease and limb amputation. With more young people being diagnosed, it means many more decades being at increased risk for health problems.

In some parts of the U.S., diagnoses of type 2 diabetes cases outnumber type 1 cases in children, Faiman said, noting that type 2 diabetes used to be a disease more common among the elderly and to see it in a growing number of children is especially worrying.

And the fact that there are nearly half a billion people around the world with diabetes shows how difficult it will be to tackle the problem, Faiman said.

"It’s a scary statistic. It just illustrates how serious the problem is," he said.