19 January 2007

Africa: Every Minute, 6 People Die From Diabetes...

Every minute across the world, 6 people die of diabetes... Either directly, or indirectly as the result of a complication. In total this disease is therefore the cause of almost 4 million deaths per year! Which is as many as those caused by AIDS. These are the figures put forward by the World Health Organization and the International Diabetes Federation (the IDF). It's a genuine massacre which shows no sign of stopping.

Quite the opposite in fact, as the prevalence of diabetes on a global scale is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2000, there were around 171 million diabetics. Today there are 246 million. And by 2025 this figure is expected to reach 380 million! Mainly due to a lack of healthy living...

The IDF is clear about this, "80% of diabetics are also obese". Hence the importance of adopting a healthier lifestyle: eating a balanced diet to control blood sugar levels (that is glycaemia), better stress management and high quality medical attention. Giving up smoking is imperative also, as of course, is regular physical exercise.

There are in fact two types of diabetes: type I and type II; and these refer to different conditions. The former, which used to be known as insulin-dependent diabetes, is the result of insufficient insulin production by the body. It can occur from a very young age but is far less common than type II diabetes, accounting for only about 10% of diabetes cases worldwide.

Type II diabetes appears later in life and is continuing to spread.

The Arab world is suffering the effects of too much sugar!

The Arab world is suffering badly from this scourge. In the Middle East, 9.2% of the population appear to be affected. We should take notice of this - it's the world record. And almost 50% of those aged 40 to 59 are affected.

Looking again at the Arab world, over 24% of people in Qatar are diabetic.

Almost one in four!

And the countries of the Maghreb are not lagging behind. The WHO estimates that at least 4.5% of those over 20 years old suffer from type II diabetes.

A percentage that is expected to rise to 6% or even 7% by 2025. In Morocco, 8% of the population suffer from type II diabetes - ie 2oe million people out of a total of 30 million.

This form of diabetes generally appears at around the age of forty, but there has been a very marked trend in recent years towards an increasingly younger age group. There are now many adolescents presenting with this form of diabetes. To blame is the spread of American dietary habits, which are extremely unbalanced.

Type II diabetes is not caused by a lack of insulin, but by the body's failure to use it correctly. This form of diabetes is closely linked to lifestyle: an increasingly sedentary way of life, aggravated by a diet over rich in fats and sugars - leading to serious cardiovascular complications.

Africa: 15 million diabetics by 2025

The continent of Africa has not escaped this powerful global rise in diabetes. Already hard hit by AIDS and malaria, it now has to deal with a growing number of diabetics. For example in Uganda, which has over a million diabetes sufferers out of a population of 28 million! To blame, as we have already seen, is the spread of the Western lifestyle... with its consequent obesity.

In 1972, only 254 Ugandans suffered from diabetes. As the number is now in excess of a million, it is not surprising that the ministry of health believes that "the problem is a serious one. People have changed their lifestyle", say the authorities. "They are less physically active. Instead of walking, they take their car".

And just as in the richer countries, one sufferer in two is unaware that he has diabetes. According to a Ugandan specialist, "the only explanation for this virtual epidemic of diabetes is the change of diet and a more sedentary lifestyle". So is there anything particular about the Ugandan population?

Maybe not Ugandan, but African yes, there may well be. Specialists are referring increasingly to type 1B diabetes, also known as "African diabetes". But what is this exactly?

This is an atypical form of diabetes which particularly affects women and men of sub-Saharan origin. The disease, which initially resembles type I diabetes, gradually develops into type II diabetes.

According to Professor Jean-François Gautier, a diabetes specialist at the Saint-Louis hospital in France, the continent of Africa "must make diabetes a public health priority in the same way as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria".

And with good reason. As in the developed world, there is an explosion in the number of people who are overweight or obese. The International Diabetes Federation believes that the number of sufferers will increase from 7 million in 2003 to 15 million in 2025!

The problem is that Africa is not ready to take up the challenge this presents to public health. There is a lack of suitable structures in place, a shortage of qualified staff, insufficient means for screening for the disease, etc. Africa is struggling to contain the epidemic. And before you can tackle diabetes first of all you need to screen for it!

Only a rapid response to tackling the disease - change in diet, medical treatment - and early cholesterol monitoring will prevent the vascular problems associated with the disease. Not forgetting, of course, that diabetics need to manage their condition, keeping a close watch on their eyes ... and their feet. Diabetes causes vascular complications that can lead to blindness. And it also increases considerably the risk of developing lesions, with serious complications... Even requiring amputation. First a foot, then one leg, then the other... Are you diabetic? Then make sure your doctor examines your feet at least once a year.

And then ... get active!

Because contrary to received wisdom, diabetics should take physical exercise. Especially if they are overweight. Walking, running or gardening - just a little exercise will help to lower the sugar level in your blood.

This is a major concern for diabetics because it can't be regulated by diet alone, however balanced this may be.

If you suffer from type II diabetes, you don't need to take any special precautions ... except of course, like everyone, have a medical check-up before you start exercising. For type I diabetics, on the other hand, additional expenditure of energy can pose a problem. But don't worry! Your doctor will recommend a suitable diet. This will include complex glucids - pasta, starchy foods .... before exercise and simple glucids during exercise, if continuing for any length of time.

When it comes to choosing your sport, there's a wide range available.

Swimming, cycling, gym work... don't hesitate to give it a go. Your body is crying out for it. Also remember those little things that can make all the difference. For example, leave the car at home, take the stairs not the lift, get off the bus one stop early and walk the rest of the way... and of course make your body a smoking-free zone.

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