Professor Nam H. Cho
President, International Diabetes Federation
In Ireland, diabetes accounted for an estimated seven thousand deaths in 2017. Worldwide, the number of diabetes-related deaths was an estimated four million. If more had been done to detect diabetes early and prevent its complications, many of these deaths could have been prevented.
Diabetes is a growing global epidemic that does not just affect individuals but has an impact on entire families. Over 425 million people are currently affected by the condition.
It is fair to say that most of us know someone living with diabetes. Today, diabetes represents a concern for every family – from parents of a child with Type 1 diabetes, to people caring for an older family member with complications caused by diabetes.
The impact of this condition is all around us.
The numbers are alarming but there is much that can be done to reduce the impact of this condition.
Limited awareness of the warning signs of diabetes
A lack of knowledge means that spotting the warning signs can be a real problem for families. It is a disturbing trend we are seeing worldwide.
A recent study found that four-in-five adults failed to correctly identify the warning signs of diabetes. The signs can be very mild in Type 2 diabetes, responsible for around 90% of all diabetes cases worldwide, so knowing what to look out for is vital to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment. Half of people currently living with Type 2 are undiagnosed.
The numbers are alarming but there is much that can be done to reduce the impact of this condition. With early diagnosis and access to appropriate care, it can be managed, and its complications prevented.
Furthermore, a majority Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through simple lifestyle measures such as regular physical activity and a healthy diet.
The barriers to prevention
Lifestyle behaviours commonly associated with urbanisation are fuelling the rise of Type 2 diabetes so interventions and policies that facilitate and encourage individuals and families to make healthy choices are required. It takes knowledge and resources to help families to live healthier lives.
The sad truth is that many families are unable to afford to adopt a healthy diet as the cheapest food is often the unhealthiest.
In addition, powerful advertising continues to tempt children and adults alike to over-consume foods high in sugar, salt and fat.
More action is needed to make a healthier diet more appealing. Governments should adopt a health-in-all-policies approach to secure the best possible quality of life for all people potentially at risk of Type 2 diabetes.
We all have a role to play to protect family members from developing Type 2 diabetes and its life-threatening complications.