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ISLAMABAD: More than 26pc of the country’s population, 27.4 million people over the age of 20, are suffering from type 2 diabetes and 14.47pc are at risk of getting diabetes.

Moreover, according to the National Diabetes Survey of Pakistan 2016-17, there is an overall 52.6pc prevalence of hypertension or high blood pressure in the country, including 27.9pc known cases and 24.7pc newly diagnosed cases.

The survey conducted by the Pakistan Health Research Council (PHRC) in collaboration with the Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (Bide) was launched on Wednesday.

Blood sugar levels are similar across all provinces, Balochistan has higher blood pressure patients, KP has lowest

During the survey, which took almost 18 months to complete, a total of 10,834 people were screened for diabetes out of whom 43.9pc were men and 56.1pc were women. Almost a third – 30.2pc – had positive family history of diabetes and 14.5pc were tobacco users. Results of sugar level were almost similar in all provinces. However in terms of blood pressure, the highest mean was observed in Balochistan and the lowest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Bide Director Prof Dr Abdul Basit, who was the lead investigator of the survey, said Pakistan has the fourth highest number of diabetics in the world and that if this state of affairs continue, Pakistan may well have the highest number of type 2 diabetics.

“There are some one million people with a diabetic foot, which means they have injuries on their feet due to diabetes and 100,000 of them will lose their limbs within a year. At Baqai, we have reduced the rate of amputation by half and established 115 foot clinics throughout the country, including at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, but we must do something meaningful to combat the disease,” he said.

Dr Basit said that in the past, diabetes was not that prevalent in the rural areas due to more physical activities but the difference now is almost negligible at 28.3pc in urban areas and 25.3pc in rural areas.

He said the survey indicates that 90pc of the population have cholesterol abnormalities.

“Tobacco is one of the major reasons for diabetes and other diseases,” Dr Basit said.

Honorary President of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Prof Abdul Samad Shera discussed misinformation about type 2 diabetes and that frequent thirst and urination and weight loss are not symptoms of the disease.

“Type 2 diabetes is a silent killer like hypertension and high cholesterol levels and takes years. If you are Asian, over the age of 40 and with a waist circumference of more than 35 inches, chances are you are probably a diabetic or are going to be,” he said.

He urges people to eat half and walk double in order to avoid getting obese and diabetic and understand that water is the only drink for wise people. He said Asians are more prone to getting diabetes as it is in their genes and urged authorities to work on prevention through awareness as, he said, even the Americans cannot afford to treat all the diabetics in their country.

“I hope I get to see the day when the admission of a diabetic will be considered as a failure on part of the physician,” he said.

Minister for National Health Services, Mohammad Yusuf Sheikh said the findings of the survey show an alarming burden of disease in the country.

“The number of people with diabetes has increased dramatically to three times from 8.7pc in 1994-98 to 26.3pc in 2016-17. More younger people are getting diabetes as 30pc of those aged between 20 and 39 have diabetes. This is a worrying trend,” he said.

Mr Sheikh said children and younger people should be targeted regarding the absolute benefits of physical exercise and sports for quality life.

PHRC Executive Director Mohammad Ali Shahzada said special focus should be given towards the health sector as 11 million people suffer from hepatitis C, 63pc children are anaemic and 44pc suffer from stunting.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2018