Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

The Dangers of Diabetes

Data from the International Diabetes Federation reveals that in 2017 no less than 425 million people in the world had Diabetes. This number is expected to increase to over SIX HUNDRED MILLION by 2040!  

South Asia alone has nearly eight million people living with Diabetes with approximately 1.2 million of these dying prematurely each year due to their diabetes.

The largest-ever study on the prevalence of diabetes in Sri Lanka was published in 2006 by researchers from Colombo University – and showed that approximately 14% of our population  suffered from this disease. In a review article in the Ceylon Medical Journal published in 2006, Katulanda Sherriff and Mathews drew attention to the growing problem of this epidemic of Diabetes in Sri Lanka.

Another study in 2019 highlighted the high prevalence of Diabetes in the population of Sri Lanka’s largest city Colombo. Recent statistics provided by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) shows the prevalence of diabetes among adults in our country is 8.5% .In other words one in 12 adults (a total of 1.2 million people) in Sri Lanka suffers from diabetes. In urban centres like Colombo, the prevalence is estimated to be as high as 27%.

Says Dr Prasad Katulanda, diabetes specialist at the National Hospital in Colombo and lead author of the 2006 research study “Ten percent of pregnant women in Sri Lanka are now diagnosed as having diabetes – and more than half these women don’t even know they have the disease”.

Diabetes has an enormous impact not only individuals but also on their families and communities. It is not simply a disease (as many people quite blithely think) causing harmless but high blood sugar! Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, heart attacks, stroke, lower limb amputation and kidney failure.

States Dr Noel Somasunderam, one of the key diabetes specialists behind the 2019 Colombo Declaration on Diabetes, “A healthy diet, regular physical activity and maintaining a normal body weight are the three key strategies to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes”

 Many people who are at risk of diabetes and many who already have diabetes are unaware that this disease can be treated – and its life-threatening consequences avoided or delayed – with healthy eating practices, physical activity and appropriate medication.

If you have diabetes, monitor yourself regularly – seeing a doctor at least once a year to be screened for the complications caused by diabetes. It is essential to have an annual eye check (to screen for and deal with diabetic eye damage), six monthly blood pressure measurements, examination for reduced blood circulation and nerve damage plus blood tests to ensure the body’s sugar level stays under control.

If you have not been tested for diabetes, this is a test worth doing. Early diabetes causes no symptoms! Regular blood tests in those at risk – so they can be identified BEFORE they develop diabetes – is important. Timely diagnosis allows significant lifestyle changes and medications to be commenced early.

Those who are obese, overweight or have an inherited risk of the disease can prevent themselves becoming diabetic by some key interventions – vigorous physical activity plus adopting a low calorie, low carbohydrate and fibre-rich diet. Weight reduction is crucial. 

In those who have had diabetes for a few years, new medicines are available that help to slow down and even reduce the narrowing of blood vessels (atherosclerosis) that is induced by diabetes. Having diabetes increases your risk of having a heart attack! Medications that reduce cholesterol, improve heart function, control heart failure and reduce the risk of artery-blocking blood clots are now available.

If you are overweight and under-exercising or if your parents or siblings have diabetes, get your blood sugar tested.

It could be life-saving!



This entry was posted on June 26, 2020 by in Health Matters and tagged , , .

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