More than one million people in the UAE suffer from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and three percent of all UAE deaths are caused by it. Experts from the International Diabetes Federation predict that the number of sufferers in the MENA region as a whole will soar from 35.4million to 72.1million by 2040.
These are alarming figures and there seems to be no let-up in the rise of type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas produces insulin, but not enough (unlike with type 1, where no insulin is produced at all), or the body’s cells do not react to the insulin produced, leaving the amount of glucose in the blood too high.
Type 2 diabetes can be brought on by several factors, including genetics, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol. It is also caused by being overweight or obese.
Doctors across the region are striving to raise awareness of Type 2 diabetes, but are still seeing new cases flooding in, and Dr Oman Gatee, a consultant in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolic diseases at Burjeel Hospital, blames two main factors for these worrying figures – the “popularity of fast food and the hot summer months making it difficult to exercise”.
While there is currently no cure for diabetes, type 2 of the disease can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle.
“Those who are overweight or make wrong lifestyle choices must make a change – now,” Dr Gatee says. “It is important, for example, to eat healthy foods, as well as be involved in some physical activity on a regular basis.” He also points out that even if you think you’re living healthily, you should still have regular check-ups with your doctor. There are also plenty of symptoms to look out for and respond to. These include excessive thirst, blurred vision, increased fatigue, itchy skin and numbness or tingling in your body, especially in your hands and feet.
On Monday November 14, Burjeel Hospital, along with many others, will be marking World Diabetes Day, and at the hospital’s Abu Dhabi branch, it will be holding a conference on the subject to raise public awareness of the disease.
Dr Gatee reiterates the importance of not ignoring the telltale signs and making healthier choices. “The first thing you need to do is consult your doctor on the way forward so they can prescribe the right medicine and advise you on lifestyle changes,” he says. Solid advice you’d be wise not to ignore.
Burjeel Hospital, Al Najda Street (02 508 5555).