About three million South African have diabetes and an estimated three million more remained undiagnosed, according to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF).
The foundation said the figures released recently also showed that diabetes currently affected 246 million people globally and is expected to affect 380 million people by 2025.
Dr Tanusha Ramaloo, head of clinical, marketing at Roche Diagnostics, said diabetes was still a misunderstood and feared condition, not just in South Africa, but around the world.
"Diabetes is a serious chronic disease. The reality is that diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death globally and every year it kills about 3.8 million people around the world and does not discriminate, affecting old and young, rich and poor, male and female," she said.
The disease can be successfully managed through lifestyle changes and medication, Ramaloo said.
Up to 80 percent of Type 2 diabetes is preventable by adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity.
Exercise is very important in controlling blood sugar levels and decreasing the risk of diabetes complications. Exercise can strengthen the heart, lower blood pressure and reduce stress levels, all of which are important factors in diabetes management.
November 14 has become United Nations World Diabetes day and South Africa has extended the campaign to the whole month of November, in order to increase awareness of diabetes and educate people on how to identify and manage the disease.
Misconceptions about Diabetes
1. Diabetes is not a killer disease
In fact, diabetes is a global killer, rivalling HIV/AIDS in its deadly reach. The disease kills some 3.8 million people a year. Every 10 seconds a person dies from diabetes-related causes.
2. Diabetes only affects rich countries
Diabetes hits all populations, regardless of income and it is becoming increasingly common. In many countries in Asia, the Middle East, Oceania and the Caribbean, diabetes affects 12-20% of the population. In 2025, 80% of all cases of diabetes will be in low and middle-income countries.
3. Diabetes only affects old people
In reality, diabetes affects all age groups. Currently, an estimated 246 million people between the ages of 20 and 79 will have diabetes. In developing countries diabetes affects at least 80 million people between ages 40-59.
4. Diabetes predominantly affects men
In fact, diabetes is rising in both men and women, and affects slightly more women than men. It is also increasing dramatically among youth and threatening to decimate indigenous populations.
5. Diabetes is the result of unhealthy “lifestyles”
The reality is that the poor and children have limited choices when it comes to living conditions, diet and education.
6. Diabetes cannot be prevented
While it is true that type 1 diabetes is not preventable, up to 80% of type 2 diabetes is preventable by a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and promoting a healthy lifestyle. - (International Diabetes Foundation/Sapa, October 2009)