WORLD HEALTH DAY: SCALING-UP PREVENTION, STRENGTHENING CARE & ENHANCING SURVEILLENCE OF DIABETES
Written by: Dr. Raja Ahmad Shaharul
World Health Day, celebrated in April each year around the world, offers great opportunity to highlight some of the most pressing issues in health and what we can do to deal with them.
Aptly, World Health Day 2016, focuses on a disease that afflicts over 400 million adults from around the world with 75 percent of those living in low and middle income countries, resulting in at least US$673 billion in health expenditure in 2015. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that this disease will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030.
What are we talking about? Diabetes – where one in two people with diabetes are undiagnosed and where every six seconds, somewhere in the world, a person dies from diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, gives us the energy that we need to live. If it cannot get into the cells to be burned as energy, sugar builds up to harmful levels in the blood.
There are two main forms of the diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes typically make none of their own insulin and therefore require insulin injections to survive. People with type 2 diabetes, the form that comprises some 90% of cases, usually produce their own insulin, but not enough or they are unable to use it properly. People with type 2 diabetes are typically overweight and sedentary, two conditions that raise a person’s insulin needs.
Over time, high blood sugar can seriously compromise every major organ system in the body, causing heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness, impotence and infections that can lead to amputations.
This World Health Day, we would like to highlight that despite the rising incidence and fatalities a large proportion of diabetes cases are preventable. Simple lifestyle measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. Maintaining normal body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of diabetes.
Diabetes is also treatable. Diabetes can be controlled and managed to prevent complications. Increasing access to diagnosis, self-management education and affordable treatment are vital components of the response.
According to the WHO, efforts to prevent and treat diabetes will be important to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goal 3 target of reducing premature mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by one-third by 2030.
The WHO’s goal for this year is to scale-up prevention, strengthen care, and enhance surveillance of diabetes as well as to increase awareness about the rise in diabetes, and its staggering burden and consequences, in particular in low-and middle-income countries;
In Malaysia, more individuals are being diagnosed each with diabetes with patients getting younger. Statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Survey showed that the number of diabetes patients aged 18 years and above had increased to 31% in 2015, up from 15.2% in 2011.
Furthermore, the number of Malaysians who are undiagnosed with abnormal blood sugars also continues to increase. This is despite the current availability and accessibility for health screenings in in the country.
While the authorities would continue to carry out campaigns to encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and increase their awareness of NCDs such as diabetes, individuals and communities can complement this effort by taking care of their health.
Research has shown that people at increased risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the onset of the disease by losing 5 to 7 percent of their body weight through increased physical activity and a reduced fat and lower calorie diet. A modest weight loss can prove effective in preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes in all groups at high risk for the disease.
In view of this, communities from around the country can come together to work out or exchange healthy eating and lifestyle habits which will go a long way in preventing type 2 diabetes.
This will result in a healthier and longer life without serious complications from the disease such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and amputations.
Diabetes can be prevented if treated early. Early precaution is important to lower your risk and it can save your life. Click here to find out more.