With World Diabetes Day upon us, there’s no sugar-coating the dangers of the disease
On 14th November, people from all over the globe will mark World Diabetes Day under the theme Women and Diabetes: Our Right to a Healthy Future.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), over 199 million women are suffering from the disease, which is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally.
In the UAE, studies have shown that diabetes is prevalent among migrant women, particularly in South Asians, while further research indicates that one in every three pregnant women develops the disease during pregnancy.
But diabetes affects men and women to a similar extent, and health authorities are dealing with it holistically.
“Recent figures from IDF confirm 37 million diabetics in the Middle East and North Africa, including 803,900 in the UAE,” reveals Dr Job Simon, consultant of endocrinology at Burjeel Hospital.
What’s more, it’s predicted that these numbers will rise by more than 80 percent to 68 million by 2035.
The silent killer
What exactly is diabetes and what causes it?
“When you eat, your body turns food into sugars or glucose. At that point, your pancreas is supposed to release insulin. Insulin serves as a key to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter and allow you to use the glucose for energy,” he continues. “But with diabetes, this system does not work.”
Type 1 diabetes, caused by genes and viruses, occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas; type 2, a condition in which muscles, liver and fat cells do not use insulin well, are mainly lifestyle-induced with obesity and lack of physical activities two contributing factors.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common among the two worldwide, with 90 percent making up most cases here in the UAE.
“Due to the climate, we spend most of our time indoors rather than walking or exercising; processed food, smoking and lack of sleep – all these lead to obesity, the gateway to diabetes,” says Dr Job.
Race against time
With nearly one million people afflicted and around 450,000 undiagnosed cases, the UAE has taken new measures in the hope of halting increasing numbers.
Earlier this year, NYUAD spearheaded the UAE Healthy Future Study, a long-term intensive research initiative involving 20,000 nationals.
Through a series of tests on participants, health experts aim to gain a deeper understanding of how lifestyle, genes and environment all play a role in the high rates of lifestyle diseases here.
Another significant step is the recent implementation of a ‘sin’ tax on sugary drinks (50 percent) and energy drinks and tobacco products (100 percent).
While it remains to be seen if the tax will reduce diabetes figures, health professionals agree that it’s a vital step.
“Community awareness about diabetes and the risk factors can go a long way in reducing the burden of the disease,” affirms Dr Job.
“Consulting with a doctor, incorporating physical exercise into daily activities, adopting healthy eating habits and finding ways to better manage stress all can help curb the growing epidemic.
“Even though there is no definitive cure, diabetes can be treated and controlled, and sometimes may go into remission, especially with significant weight loss.”
Decrease your chances of diabetes with nutritional advice from Medeor 24×7 dietician Grace Medrano
- Highly processed carbohydrates made with white flour, white sugar and white rice are easy to digest and cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Sugar-sweetened drinks contain excess calories that can lead to weight gain and high amounts of sugar, which can increase insulin resistance.
- Saturated and trans fats increase cholesterol levels in the blood, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
- Processed meat is linked to type 2 diabetes due to high levels of sodium and nitrates.
- Healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, fish oils and flax seed
- Fresh fruits and vegetables but within caloric allowance
- High fibre cereals and breads made from whole grain
- Fish, shellfish, chicken and turkey, but follow recommended portion sizes
Need to know
Burjeel Hospital will host free screenings and nutrition counselling on 14th November. Fatima Bint Mubarak St. 10am-2pm. Contact: 02 508 5555, burjeel.com/abu-dhabi
Boston Dental Center is offering free assessments and a talk on the correlation of diabetes with oral health, risk factors and food management on 17th November at Umm Al Emarat Park. 3.30pm-9pm. Visit: bostondentaluae.com
Imperial College London Diabetes Centre is once again hosting its annual Walk 2017 event at Yas Marina Circuit on 17th November from 2pm. AED 10, under 16 free. Visit: walkon.ae
WORDS Ferdinand Godinez