Diabetes – the silent killer

Our pancreas is responsible for producing a hormone called insulin which helps in regulating the blood sugar (glucose) levels. A person becomes diabetic when pancreas is not producing enough insulin or when our bodies are not responding to the effects of insulin to regulate blood sugar. This results in spike of glucose level in our blood resulting in diabetes.
There are several types of diabetes but the most common ones primarily include Type 1 in which a person’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin producing cells in pancreas. The second, and the most common & concerning one, is Type 2 diabetes in which a person’s body does not produce adequate amount of insulin or is unable to respond to insulin (Insulin Resistance). Pre-diabetic stage is defined as the third type which is a stage before Type 2 diabetes and lastly Gestational Diabetes, which usually occurs during pregnancies and is often cured after delivery.
Around 537 million adults across the globe have diabetes which is predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by the year 2045.
The above figures are alarming and need immediate attention. Managing diabetes and its causes remain challenging for the modern world. Diabetes can be managed by regular blood sugar monitoring, oral medications, insulin injections (specially for Type 1), balanced diet, meditation and exercise. The common health issues related to or caused by diabetes include kidney failure, heart related ailments, strokes, blindness and lower limbs amputation.
Diabetes is rising at an alarming rate in Pakistan. We rank third in the world in terms of number of diabetic persons while becoming the top most country in the prevalence of diabetes. With 30.8% of Pakistan’s population being affected, the number of affected persons has currently touched thirty-three (33) million; while a quarter of the population still remains undiagnosed due to various reasons.
While obesity remains the primary cause of diabetes, there are several other reasons for this spiking rate of diabetes in Pakistan. Our love for food is unconditional, in which we often take pride regardless of health concerns and consequences. Many Pakistanis opt for food items that have high cholesterol, rich carbohydrates and excessive sugar; all of which are tough to digest and enablers of spiking blood sugar levels. Secondly it is our relaxed lifestyle which generally does not incorporate physical activities or exercise of any sort. Majority of undiagnosed cases hail from the rural areas of the country; which lacks good healthcare facilities. In recent times, economic and social strains have added to people’s stress and in turn it eventually effects the sleep cycles and anxiety levels putting them at a high risk of becoming diabetic. Lazy lifestyles, immobility at work and excessive screen times in leisure hours is adding to the deteriorating health of our citizens. We also need a better education system for awareness coupled with healthcare accessibility to masses for identification and treatment of diabetes.
The rate of increase in the cases of diabetes is quite alarming – not only in the world but also specifically in Pakistan. Diabetes is often called a silent killer and is responsible for roughly 1.5 million deaths every year throughout the world. Maintaining a healthy body weight, a balanced diet, regular moderate exercise, managing stress through meditation, adequate sleep cycles and timely diagnosis can help in preventing or managing the disease.