One of the serious if not grave negatives of our hi-tech era is a change for the worse in diet and lifestyle—a change that has brought about a diabetes pandemic. If actions speak louder than words then figures also do.
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) in shocking revelations to mark World Diabetes Day on Friday, says estimates from the IDF Diabetes Atlas indicate that there are about 382 million people suffering from diabetes worldwide. By 2035, about 592 million people, or one person in ten will have the disease. A further 316 million people are currently at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with the number expected to increase to almost 500 million within a generation. What makes the pandemic particularly menacing is that throughout much of the world, it remains hidden. Up to half of all people with diabetes globally remain undiagnosed—that is why it is known as the silent killer.
The IDF says these facts and figures reiterate the importance of urgent action. Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented and the serious complications of diabetes can be avoided through healthy lifestyles and living environments that encourage and facilitate healthy behaviour.
World Diabetes Day this year campaign marks the first of a three-year (2014-16) focus on healthy living and diabetes. This year’s activities and materials will specifically address the topic of healthy eating and its importance both in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and the effective management of diabetes to avoid complications. The key messages of the campaign aim to raise awareness of how the healthy choice can be the easy choice and the various steps that individuals can take to make informed decisions about what they eat. Special focus will be placed on the importance of starting the day with a healthy breakfast.
The key messages of the campaign will be-- make healthy food the easy choice; healthy eating: make the right choice; healthy eating begins with breakfast.
According to the World Health Organisation’s latest figures, in 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes. More than 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. WHO projects that diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030. Healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use could prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Now let us turn our attention to Sri Lanka and look at stark realities instead of sugar-coated pills. According to the Health Ministry about 25 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people—that is about 5.2 million people—are suffering from diabetes and the figure may double by 2050 if effective preventive and curative measures are not taken immediately by both the government and at individual and family level.
The most staggering and disturbing fact is that about 10 percent of schoolchildren are suffering from diabetes while another 15 percent are at risk of being affected by this silent killer which is known to retard the growth of the child’s body and mind. One of the sideeffects of diabetes is gangrene and according to the Ministry, legs of about 500 to 600 people have to be amputated annually due to the disease.
The latest figures show that about 40 percent of the urban population and 19 percent of the rural population are suffering from diabetes. Diabetes also leads to other serious ailments linked to the heart, kidney, liver, eyesight and skin.
Irregular food habits, food with too much sugar and carbohydrate, sitting at a television or the computer for a longer period of the day, lack of exercise, smoking and drinking may lead to the increase in the disease. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, cutting down on oily and starchy food, engaging in exercises for at least 20 minutes a day would help prevent the disease, experts say.
We have a message for Sri Lanka’s parents. Healthy eating begins with breakfast. Wake up early and give your child some gram, cowpea, mungata or other nutritious grains instead of giving them money for maalu paan, hot dogs and hamburger. You must make a choice—Do you want taste which ends at the tongue or do you want nutrition for good health.