02 June 2014

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) statistics reveal the frightening rise in diabetes

Hyperglycaemia and Diabetes

From 30 million people with diabetes in 1985, to 171 million in 2000 and then to 383 million in 2013. This is a staggering increase.

The question has to be, what is causing this epidemic?

Lifestyle factors

Industrialisation and globalisation have resulted in the rapid urbanisation of many previously rural communities, with traditional lifestyle and dietary practices being replaced by less healthy, more sedentary lifestyles and diets. The overall result worldwide, and particularly in developing countries, is the rapid increase in obesity and diabetes.

Specific lifestyle and clinical risk factors associated with the development of diabetes include:

Increasing age: the greatest prevalence occurs in people over the age of 45 years in developing countries and in those over 65 years in developed countries.
Obesity and waist circumference: diabetes is closely linked to a body mass index (BMI) in excess of 30 kg/m2 and a waist circumference in excess of 102 cm for men and 88 cm for women.

Ethnicity: proposed by geneticist James Neel in 1962, the thrifty gene hypothesis explains the tendency of certain ethnic groups to be more prone to obesity and diabetes. It suggests that certain ethnic groups with a history of food scarcity may have evolved to maximize metabolic efficiency and food searching behaviour. In times of abundance (such as during urbanisation) these genes may make these ethnic groups more at risk of diseases such as obesity, caused by excess nutritional intake.

Low birth weight: this is a risk factor that appears to have its origins in pancreatic dysfunction occurring as a result of malnutrition of a baby while in the womb.

Family history of diabetes: you are four times as likely to develop diabetes if you have one diabetic parent, and almost eight times more likely if both your parents have the disease.

Impaired glucose tolerance, impaired fasting glucose and gestational diabetes: these dysfunctional metabolic states precede diabetes and are an early warning sign. Women who  developed gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) are more likely to develop diabetes later on.

Diet: poor nutrition is a modifiable risk factor in diabetes. Diets that are associated with a high demand for insulin may play a role in compromising pancreatic β-cell function over time. High carbohydrate diets are a well-known contributing factor in obesity which is in turn associated with increased insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.

Sedentary, or inactive lifestyle: this modifiable risk factor increases the risk of diabetes by between 20% and 40%, independent of body mass index. Exercise may improve insulin resistance, even in the absence of any accompanying weight loss.

Hypertension: studies reveal that hypertension (high blood pressure) and/or the use of antihypertensive agents can be a risk factor in diabetes.  

Dyslipidaemia: high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood (hypertriglyceridaemia) and low levels of High Density Lipoprotein-Cholesterol (HDL-C) are considered to be predictors of diabetes.
It is estimated that diabetes occurs some four to seven years before presenting symptoms in patients.

What is important to note is that approximately 90% of all Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by modifying your lifestyle, and thus prevention, rather than treatment, has to be the most cost-effective way of addressing this very serious chronic disease.

If you feel you may be at risk of Type 2 diabetes, one of the chronic lifestyle diseases associated with Metabolic Syndrome, visit a Dis-Chem pharmacy, get tested and get help. Met-S Care works with Dis-Chem Pharmacies to empower people living with Metabolic Syndrome to take control of their condition.

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