KARACHI: Health experts and medical scientists on Wednesday warned that over a quarter of Pakistani population is suffering from lifestyle disease, mainly diabetes, and if poor eating habits, particularly excessive use of rice and growing consumption of carbonated drinks, continue with the same pace the number could multiply over the next five to 10 years.

The experts wondered over the growing and “proud trend” of biryani that they believed could badly harm health if consumed excessively. Poor eating habits were one of the leading causes of diabetes in Pakistan, they believed.

“There is an immediate need for reinvention of Pakistani cuisine,” said Prof Tasnim Ahsan, a renowned internal medicine specialist and endocrinologist, while speaking at the launch of Discovering Diabetes project.

The project is aimed at finding out undiagnosed patients of diabetes in Pakistan, which is a joint venture of Pakistan Endocrine Society (PES) and local pharmaceutical firm Pharmevo.

Prof Ahsan said: “Everything we are eating [these days] should be avoided, especially rice in form of biryani, soft drinks and the so-called fast food. The only recreation in Pakistan is eating in abundance, which is making it a diseased nation.

“Over 50 per cent of the people living with diabetes don’t know of their health status and they only come to know about it when their eyes, kidneys, heart or brain had suffered irreparable damage. The care comes first before any treatment — so be careful.”

Prof Zaman Shaikh, a known diabetologist, said the silent killer was consuming hundreds of thousands of lives in Pakistan annually but unfortunately, majority of people were unaware of the causes of the disease considering it a minor issue.

“When people come to us after living with diabetes for years, several of their vital organs have already faced irreversible damage,” he said.

“Diabetes causes permanent damage to eyes, kidneys, cause heart attacks and large, fatal strokes. People should take measures themselves to prevent from contracting diabetes or managing it once they become diabetic.”

Prof Javed Iqbal, a laparoscopic surgeon, said lack of awareness regarding health issues was not less than a crime, as diseases like diabetes were causing irreversible damage to the people silently. He urged the people of Pakistan to change their dietary and recreational habits and get themselves tested for the diabetes as soon as possible.

Explaining the Discovering Diabetes project, Pharmevo managing director Haroon Qasim said that a helpline had been established under the initiative to help people know their status of diabetes and get consultation with leading diabetologists of the country.

“We believe the way we are losing our healthy lifestyle, something should be made a part of curricula of schools in Pakistan as saying in a country with 26 per cent people living with diabetes, every child should know what they should eat and how to live a healthy life,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2021

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