An estimated 366 million people worldwide now suffer from diabetes, an explosion in the number of cases that has health officials urging swift action to stem a worsening public health crisis.

The majority of people with the disease have Type 2 diabetes, and much of its growth appears to be linked to lifestyle, including obesity, unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise. Doctors convened at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes urged public officials to fund preventative measures and research.

The clock is ticking for the world's leaders, Jean Claude Mbanya, president of the World Diabetes Federation, said in a statement. We expect action from their meeting next week at the United Nations that will halt diabetes' relentlessly upwards trajectory.

Diabetes Kills About 4.6 Million People Per Year

Diabetes kills about 4.6 million people per year, or one person every seven seconds. The number of people living with diabetes has more than doubled in the past three decades, and the World Diabetes Federation estimated that the epidemic costs about $465 billion to treat annually.

Type 1 diabetes is most common among young people whose blood is unable to make insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin to break down glucose, increasing the body's blood sugar and exposing sufferers to an increased risk of kidney failure, blindness and amputation.

The American Diabetes Association estimates that 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, or about 8.3 percent of the population. The British medical journal Lancet projected another eight million cases by 2030, driven by an additional 65 million obese Americans.

Health officials attribute the spike in diabetes cases to population growth, particularly with a larger share of elderly people, as well as to unhealthy lifestyles.