|World Faces a “Devastating” Diabetes Epidemic–WHO
By Richard Waddington
GENEVA (Reuters) May 05 – The world faces a devastating diabetes epidemic, with the annual death toll already exceeding the three million killed by AIDS and set to rise, the World Health Organisation warned on Wednesday. Issuing a cry of alarm about the disease, the WHO and the International Diabetes Foundation said the number of diabetics worldwide would more than double to 366 million by 2030, from some 171 million at present.
Although often thought a rich country risk, it is in poorer countries that diabetes is growing fastest, with cases seen rising 150% over the next 25 years. In India, for example, the number would leap from 32 million to 80 million. Furthermore, while in rich states diabetes affects mainly older people, in poorer countries incidence is surging among those still economically active, the two organisations said.
“The number is increasing dramatically and has the potential to overwhelm countries’ health systems,” WHO director for chronic disease Dr Robert Beaglehole told a news conference. WHO and the Foundation said they were launching a campaign to raise awareness, because, unlike some other health threats, type 2 diabetes could be prevented by improved eating and exercise habits.
“It is determined environmentally and therefore it can be reversed,” Beaglehole said.
Some 3.2 million people died in 2000, the latest year for which figures were available, of ailments brought on by diabetes such as cardiovascular disease and kidney failure. This compares with three million deaths from AIDS.
“The burden of premature death from diabetes is similar to that of HIV/AIDS, yet the problem is largely unrecognised,” the two organisations said in a statement.
Although it was not possible to predict accurately the future death rate, WHO officials said it would probably mirror the increase in overall cases. The per capita death toll was highest in the Middle East and parts of the Pacific, with more than one in four deaths in the 35-64 age range attributed to diabetes.
Diabetes mellitus is indeed on the rise. In Malaysia, we are not spared. Registration figures at diabetic clinics are rising and the age at the time of diagnosis is decreasing. Exact figures will probably not be availabe until the next Health and Morbidity Survey in 2006. The question is why is it increasing at such an alarming rate and why is it affecting a younger age group?
Genetics have been shouldering the blame. Although genetics do have a role in the pathogenesis of diabetes, there are environmental factors as well. Among them are a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Diets high in sugar and carbohydrates appear unfriendly to cells producing insulin. Look around us, from “santans” and curries to Coffee Beans and Secret Recipes. The tantalizing view of delicious looking dishes tempts all. This puts stress on insulin-producing cells and studies have shown that such high sugar content in the bloodstream is toxic to these cells.
Lack of exercise and increasing waistlines are also culprits in this scourge of diabetes. Obesity rates are on the rise even among children. The habit of exercising needs to be inculcated in the young. More facilities are also needed for the public. Exclusive clubs and expensive membership fees to gymnasiums, especially in urban areas, are a move in the wrong direction.
There is increasing evidence that smoking is an independant risk factor for diabetes. Smoking is certainly on the rise despite the valiant efforts of the Government in stemming it. More young souls are delving into this practice of self destruction.
So the fight against diabetes has to be on several fronts. We need to treat the community even before diabetes strikes. For when diabetes strikes, there is no turning back. Diabetes can be prevented but we have to change the lifestyle that many others in the developed world are abandoning.
Are you at risk for diabetes? Perhaps you could take the Diabetes Risk Test