The Rise Of Diabetes As A Killer In Oman

18 Nov 2018
POSTED BY Alvin Thomas

Diabetes has become the deadliest of diseases, and one that many sufferers don’t even know they have. Team Y lifts the lid on the potentially lethal illness that can threaten our lives and cast a shadow on our lifestyles.

Diabetes is slowly but insidiously becoming one of the greatest threats to mankind.

It’s quite simply a disease that threatens to uproot the healthcare industry by evolving into a “21st Century catastrophe”.

And the numbers don’t lie. As of 2017, a staggering 425 million people were suffering from the disease, which was ranked as the seventh greatest killer by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The WHO describes this potentially deadly disease as a chronic, metabolic illness that is characterised by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar).

It occurs when the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, which in turn results in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood.

If left untreated, this could lead to serious complications to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves, or worse, death.

Current statistics show no need for the residents of Oman to worry – but those numbers only tell you half the story, says Dr Amina Mohammed al Barwani, an endocrinologist with a private hospital.

Dr al Barwani says: “The stark reality is that while the numbers of deaths are predominantly in developing countries in South East Asia and the Western Pacific, the Middle East is catching up – and Oman is pacing itself just as quickly.”

She’s right, too. For instance, currently, the International Diabetic Federation (IDF) states that there are more than 39 million people in the Middle East region suffering from the illness. But, the numbers are expected to rise to a worrying 67 million by the
year 2045.

The concerns only increase further when we realise that Oman currently has 367,700 diabetic patients (nearly 10.7 per cent of the society) registered and receiving treatment from private and government hospitals governed by the Oman Diabetes Association (ODA) and that the figures will increase by nearly “120 per cent” over the next 12 years.

Yesterday was marked as ‘World Diabetes Day’, while this month is observed in full as one to create awareness about the illness.

And fulfilling her role during the month, Dr al Barwani says: “To understand why these numbers are increasing, we first need to understand the types of diabetes.

“There are two types that are very prevalent in Oman – Type 1 and Type 2 – with the second type nearing accounting for nearly 80 per cent of all diabetes cases in the country,” she adds.

According to the IDF, Type 1 diabetes or ‘juvenile-onset diabetes’ is usually caused by an auto-immune reaction wherein the body’s defence system attacks the cells that produce insulin. The disease may affect people of any age, but usually develops in children or young adults. People with this form of diabetes need injections of insulin every day to control the levels of glucose in their blood. If people with type 1 diabetes do not have access to insulin, it could result in their death.

Type 2 diabetes or ‘adult-onset diabetes’ accounts for most diabetes cases. It’s associated often, but not always, with obesity, which itself can cause insulin resistance and lead to high blood glucose levels. The diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can occur at any age – but it can remain undetected for many years and the diagnosis is often made when a complication appears or a routine blood or urine glucose test is done.

People with type 2 diabetes can often initially manage their condition through exercise and diet. However, over time most people will require oral drugs and/or insulin, the IDF adds.

But just them the doctor goes on to add another type of diabetes – a third kind: gestational diabetes. She explains: “It is normally found in pregnant women when they’re diagnosed with high glucose levels.

“I had experienced this myself but it completely disappeared post-pregnancy. But, what women must keep in mind is that this can put you and your child at risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes later in life – so you must keep your lifestyle and your food habits healthy.”

But Dr al Barwani says that even though the Type 1 and gestational diabetes comes naturally based in one’s body, there are ways by which one can reduce the risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes.

Here, she offers some tips for potential or actual sufferers

1) Assess the risk

No one’s exempt from any illness and diabetes isn’t an exception. If anything, you’re at a higher risk of contracting the disease by not acknowledging it. So, take a periodical exam with your endocrinologist every six to eight months or so if you feel that your lifestyle has been altered.

2) Change your lifestyle

This is arguably the hardest task one can ask a diabetic patient to do – so I make sure that I tell every unfit patient who comes here for an examination to change their food habits (switch from fatty foods that are high in saturated and trans fats), alter their sleep patterns, and also to exercise frequently. This can definitely reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

3) Weight management

This is no joke! Fat stored in your body needs to be burned away. And the excess fat that you see around the abdomen region of your body can increase your body’s resistance to insulin – the hormone that’s vital to curb diabetes.

4) Avoid processed foods

We spoke about altering your food habits, but that includes saying no to takeaway foods that are high in salt and saturated fats. These meals are designed to last long on a shelf and nothing more.

5) Stop smoking and drinking alcohol

Every now and then we see videos pop up on Facebook of the benefits of drinking liquor for reducing your diabetes risk. However, in reality, I have not come across a single study that states this. Don’t fall for cheap marketing techniques as these products are bad for your health when consumed without moderation.

Dr al Barwani concludes: “One only realises the inconvenience caused by diabetes once you have been diagnosed with it. It changes your life forever and things that you could once do won’t be possible anymore. So, my humble request to anyone reading this would be to get yourself tested immediately, and then proceed for follow-ups regularly.

Prevention is definitely better than cure.”

Is there a treatment for diabetes?

There’s no cure for diabetes, so treatment aims to keep blood glucose levels as normal as possible and control symptoms.

Diabetes Type 1: Treatment includes insulin injections or using an insulin pump. It can be managed well.

Diabetes Type 2: Make lifestyle changes such as diet, exercise and weight loss, but medication will eventually be needed.

Key facts

The number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 425 million in 2017.

The global prevalence of diabetes among adults over 18 years of age has risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014.

Diabetes prevalence has been rising more rapidly in middle- and low-income countries.

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation.

In 2016, an estimated 1.6 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes. Another 2.2 million deaths were attributable to high blood glucose in 2012.

Healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use are ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity, medication and regular screening and treatment for complications.

Source: World Health Organisation

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