Recent health screenings revealed that 26% of people sampled were at risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, healthcare group Netcare said on Monday.
"This figure is shockingly high," said Jacques du Plessis, managing director of the company's hospital division.
They estimate that around 6.5 million South Africans suffer from diabetes, with the problem on the rise and posing a challenge to the healthcare system.
"If your diet is poor and overly rich in fats, you don't get much exercise, you smoke and you have had an unhealthy lifestyle for some years, you may have a higher risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes than other people. And it can be a devastating disease," he warned in a statement.
High glucose levels in the human body over extended periods of time could lead to serious health complications, damaging organs and raising the risk of heart disease.
Diabetics could also have problems with wound healing and can suffer retinal damage, which can cause blindness.
The increased number of people with the condition is associated with an increased adoption of junk food and unhealthy lifestyles.
Other risks include a genetic predisposition or other health problems, such as heart disease and raised cholesterol levels.
Educate the public
"There is a great need to educate the public about it as early screening can save numerous health problems later in life," he said.
Symptoms include frequent urination; being thirsty much of the time; always feeling tired; rapid weight loss and blurred and changeable vision. – (Sapa, November 2009)
Diabetes: blind to the dangers?