As Nigeria joined the rest of the world to observe World Diabetes Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that half of the people living with diabetes type 2 are unaware of the disease.
WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, stated this in Abuja, yesterday at a press conference to commemorate this year's World Diabetes Day, themed: "The family and diabetes."
Represented by WHO Officer in Charge in Nigeria, Dr. Clement Peter, Moeti said awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors is important to help detect it early.
She also said that early diagnosis and treatment are important for preventing complications of diabetes.
Moeti therefore urged governments to accelerate access to diabetes services for everyone, through people-centred primary health care and universal health coverage.
According to her, "Diabetes is a serious, persistent disease in which blood sugar is elevated. It may either be due to the pancreas not producing enough insulin (type 1 diabetes), or the body being unable to effectively use the insulin it produces (type 2 diabetes).
"Over 90 per cent of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. If not well controlled, diabetes may cause blindness, kidney failure, lower limb amputations and other complications."
She however blamed increasing rate of the disease on aging populations and lifestyle changes, including unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity, adding that overweight and obesity are the strongest risk factors for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other non-communicable diseases.
Speaking further, she said while family genes can be the cause of diabetes; family support can be a key benefit for people with diabetes.
He said, "For instance, families can choose to buy and serve healthy and balanced diets, encourage participation in physical activity, and promote healthy living environments.
"Prevention of type 2 diabetes and other non-communicable diseases should begin early in childhood and continue throughout life."
Pledging WHO's commitment to supporting governments to improve the prevention and control of diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, Moeti urged everyone to eat healthily, be physically active and avoid excessive weight gain.