05 September 2018

Who gets diabetes?

Diabetes in South Africa is more of a problem than TB, HIV and malaria combined. But one in two people with diabetes in South Africa don’t even know they have the condition.

Worldwide, the prevalence of diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. Africa, in particular, is in trouble, with the epidemic of diabetes increasing significantly on the continent – a result of urbanisation, changing lifestyles, increasing life expectancy, and environmental changes.

Based on the most recent International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates, 425 million people have diabetes across the globe, while more than 16 million people in the Africa region are affected by the disease. By 2045, this number will be around 41 million. There were 1,826,100 cases of diabetes in South Africa in 2017.

Anyone can get diabetes, but people who have family members with the condition are at greater risk. Other risk factors include overweight/obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity.

As people grow older, their risk of getting type 2 diabetes also increase. People who are over 40 and overweight are more likely to develop this type of diabetes. That said, the incidence of type 2 diabetes is also growing among children and adolescents. This is largely due to increased overweight/obesity and inactivity in younger people.

In the USA, diabetes is more common among Native Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. In South Africa, the highest prevalence of diabetes is in the Asian and coloured communities.

Information supplied by Jeannie Berg, diabetes educator and Chairperson of the Diabetes Education Society of South Africa (DESSA), and reviewed by Dr Joel Dave (MBChB PhD FCP Cert Endocrinology), Senior Specialist in the Division of Diabetic Medicine and Endocrinology, University of Cape Town. August 2018.

Read more:
Risk factors for diabetes


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Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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