Education and prevention are key to fighting diabetes. Four out five diabetics worldwide are living in middle or low income countries, half of them unaware of their condition. Screening for pre-diabetes is one essential step in combating diabetes as more than 10 per cent of the people with pre-diabetes become diabetic within three years.
Experts at a session held to mark World Diabetes Day at Aga Khan University also pointed out that up to a 58 per cent reduction in the development of diabetes could be achieved if pre-diabetes was controlled effectively. “Pre-diabetes is a condition where the blood sugar is above normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Progression to diabetes can be checked with a good diet and a regular exercise routine,” said Dr Jaweed Akhter, Section Head and consultant endocrinologist, AKU.
“About 120,000 people are dying in Pakistan each year as a result of diabetes related complications and many more are being incapacitated. Much of this can be avoided as studies have shown that even small improvements in glucose control can lead to significant reduction in complications,” he added.
Once diabetes develops there is significant reduction in the capacity of insulin producing cells in the pancreas and diabetes tends to progress. If not controlled diabetes related complications affecting the eyes, kidneys, nerve, blood supply and the heart develop. Unfortunately, a very high proportion, about half of the people, who die with diabetes related complications are below 60 years old.
“Pre-diabetes screening is also an early warning for overweight people to get tested, especially if they suffer from other additional risk factors such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides or a family history of diabetes,” Dr Asma Ahmed, consultant endocrinologist, added.
Professor Najmul Islam, consultant endocrinologist discussed ways of optimizing diabetes management. He emphasized that “… adhering to standards of care for sugar levels, cholesterol and BP many diabetes complications can be reduced or completely avoided”. The key is to “detect the complications early”, said Professor Islam.
In addition to screening one of the vital management strategies to combat diabetes is the maintenance of good dietary habits. “A healthy diet can significantly improve blood glucose and assist in weight control for most patients,” said Ms Moti Khan, clinical nutritionist, AKUH.
The session was followed by a question and answer session in which the panel emphasized that diabetes affects all segments of society including the low, middle and upper socioeconomic groups and discussed the ways to best achieve control in all patients.