The Global Diabetes Epidemic



WHO has called for a global action on diabetes. Stating that there is a global Diabetes Epidemic. The UN’s World Health Organization says “The number of people living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 with 108 million (4.7% of the population) to 422 million adults (8.5% of the population), with most living in developing countries. Factors driving this dramatic rise include overweight and obesity.”


Diabetes is seen around the world. In Canada it has escalated with 3.1 million diabetics. By 2018-2019 this number will rise to 3.7 million Canadians who are diagnosed with diabetes. However, this figure doesn’t include the number of Canadians who are un-diagnosed with diabetes. Most people don’t even realize that they are pre-diabetic. The Canada government estimates that out of 36 million 20% don’t know that they have diabetes. All of these numbers contribute to the 382 million current people worldwide are living with diabetes. The stats give insight as to why we are facing a global Diabetes Epidemic.

The Cost of Diabetes

The Canadian cost of Diabetes is $14 billion. This cost threatens both the sustainability of our healthcare system and the future economic prosperity of Canada. In 2013, 41.6% of B.C. residents had access weight, resulting in an economic burden of $2.6 billion. These costs could be reduced by helping people form healthier habits. Healthier habits give people the opportunity to optimize their health for the long term. By forming these habits earlier people will be able to lower their risk of diabetes.

The WHO estimated that the annual global cost of diabetes, including healthcare needs, has exceeded $827 billion. By 2030 the global GDP losses linked to diabetes could reach 1.7 trillion.


Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

The WHO reports that “the epidemic of diabetes has major health and socioeconomic impacts.” Their report blames the increase of type 2 diabetes in excess body weight and physical inactivity. It is also because sugar is in everything. Sugar has an addictive nature to it. People enjoy foods with a sweeter taste that tend to contain hidden sugars. This ties Type 2 diabetes to the growing consumption of food and beverages that are high in sugar.

Fixing our health and changing our eating habits does not happen overnight. In the same what that we won’t see instant results from a diet. Or see our body change from overweight to skinny overnight. It is just not realistic. Losing weight is tied to a healthy body. Creating a healthy body for ourselves takes time, work, and adjustments. Our bodies are uniquely different. There is no one diet that fits all or a cookie cutter answer to lose weight.

“Effectively addressing diabetes does not just happen: it is the result of collective consensus and public investment in interventions that are affordable, cost-effective and based on the best available science,” Chan said in a statement.

The Factors Behind The Diabetes Epidemic

Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin. Many factors can cause this to happen. One of the most popular reasons is excess weight, inactivity, genetics, and environmental factors.

Researchers don’t fully understand why people develop Type 2 diabetes. However it is clear that certain factors increase the risk including:

  • Weight
  • Fat distribution
  • Inactivity
  • Family History
  • Race
  • Age
  • Pre-Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Complications of Diabetes

It is easy to ignore Type 2 Diabetes and thus the Diabetes epidemic, especially in the early stages when you are feeling healthy. But diabetes can affect major organs without you ever realizing it. If diabetes is not treated or managed, long-term complications can become disabling or life-threatening. Some of the potential complications of diabetes include:

  •    Heart and Blood Vessel Disease: Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems. Including heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.
  • Nerve Damage: Poorly controlled blood sugar can cause diabetics to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs.
  • Kidney Damage: Diabetes can damage the millions of tiny blood vessels that filter waste from the blood. This can lead to kidney failure.
  • Eye Damage: Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina, potentially leading to blindness.
  • Foot Damage: It is common for diabetics to have low blood flow to the feet. This increases the risk of various foot complications including nerve damage. If this is left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections.
  •    Hearing Impairment: Hearing problems are common in people with diabetes.
  • Skin Conditions: Diabetes can cause people to be more susceptible to skin problems. Including bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease: Type 2 diabetes may increase people’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The exact connection between Diabetes and Alzheimers remains unclear.

The Location Of Diabetes

There is a geographic component to diabetes that tends to relate to socioeconomic status. The diabetes epidemic is global and not reserved to one area. When poverty increases the risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes goes up as well. In Canada, certain populations carry a heavier diabetes burden. (i.e. aboriginals, low-income Canadians, and women.) In Mexico, their department of Health reports that people making under $15,000 a year is three times  more likely to become diabetic than someone making $50,000 a year.

Diabetes Could Be Prevented

It is estimated that over 50% of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed with healthier eating and increased physical activity. “Many cases of diabetes can be prevented, and measures exist to detect and manage the condition, improving the odds that people with diabetes live long and healthy lives,” says Dr. Oleg Chestnov, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for NCDs and Mental Health. “But change greatly depends on governments doing more, including implementing global commitments to address diabetes and other NCDs.”


How To Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Managing Type 2 diabetes and reducing the effects of a global diabetes epidemic starts with a healthier diet. Picking foods that fuel your body will help you keep your blood sugar closer to normal. Such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Centering your diet on high-fiber and low-fat foods is also important. This can easily be accomplished by following a macronutrient diet. A macronutrient balanced diet encourages you to eat a balanced meal consisting of 30g of carbohydrates, 40g of fat, and 30g of protein. A macronutrient diet will also prevent the onset of disease and will help you lose weight.

Everyone needs regular activity and exercises in their life. People with type 2 diabetes are no exceptions. By doing regular exercises for 30 minutes a day you will be able to manage your diabetes and help prevent or delay future complications. If you haven’t been active for a while, start slowly and build up your daily activities gradually. Choose the activities you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, and biking.

Remember that physical activity lowers blood sugar. Check your blood sugar before any activity and consult with your doctor. You might just need a healthy snack before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar if you take diabetes medications that lower your blood sugar.

We need to Rethink Our Lives & What we Choose To Eat

“If we are to make any headway in halting the rise in the diabetes epidemic, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain,” says Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people can make these healthy choices and that health systems can diagnose and treat people with diabetes.”

Lyda Mclallen

Lyda is a health and fitness contributor for Kudolife.

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