THE battle against diabetes is one that the world has not been able to come to grips with. An estimated 463m people globally are afflicted with the chronic condition (up to 90pc of them with type 2 diabetes); that is 38m more than were living with it in 2017. These figures by the International Diabetes Federation, released on Nov 14 — World Diabetes Day — also contain alarming news for Pakistan. According to the report, we figure among the top 10 countries for absolute increase in diabetes prevalence, with over 19m people suffering from the disease. Of these, some 8.5m are undiagnosed, which makes them even more susceptible to the life-threatening health issues that diabetes can lead to if not managed properly, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, lower limb amputation, etc.
Diabetes is known, for good reason, as a silent killer. It can sneak up on an individual without presenting any, or very mild, symptoms; public awareness about its innocuous onset is thus imperative to facilitate early detection. Our already creaking public health infrastructure is now dealing with the added burden of a condition that is the gateway to serious complications. It is also equally important for people to realise that unlike type 1, type 2 diabetes is preventable, even though some individuals may be genetically predisposed to it. A healthy lifestyle, in which exercise and a balanced diet play an important role, can help stave off this condition or at least help ameliorate its most debilitating effects. Unfortunately, however, in our part of the world, the tendency is towards a sedentary existence where maintaining one’s weight within reasonable, prescribed limits goes against the cultural pattern. That, as the numbers show, has proven to be a recipe for disaster. As per the IDF report, diabetes prevalence in Pakistan has touched 17.1pc, an astounding 148pc higher than what was previously reported. Public and private health facilities must be proactive in dealing with this distressing state of affairs by raising awareness and early testing.
Published in Dawn, November 18th, 2019