For people living in Dubai, the growing trend towards wellness couldn’t have come at a better time, as figures show that areas within the United Arab Emirates are experiencing a marked increase in the numbers of type 2 diabetics.
According to the International Diabetes Federation Atlas, 19.3% of adults aged 20 to 79 in the UAE are diabetic, with the rate of diabetes in parts of the Arabian Peninsula over twice the global average. Cases of type 2 diabetes now outnumber type 1 by a ratio of 10:1 in the region.
While there’s little doubt that the two main triggers of type 2 – obesity and more sedentary lifestyles – are playing their part, recent research also suggests that the Arab population could actually be more susceptible on a genetic level.
Conducted by Manipal University in Dubai and Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, the joint study reportedly made links between the disease and genes that cause obesity and high blood pressure in 500 Emiratis.
Glucose sticks are a quick and inexpensive method of monitoring your sugar levels via urine – and can be done at home. If type 2 diabetes is known to be in the family, Dr Clarke recommends having a urine test for sugar on an annual basis.
“We’ve known for some years that one’s genetic profile can be a factor causing type 2 Diabetes,” says Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer at William Russell. “I would caution any expats in Dubai and across the UAE against viewing this merely as a problem for the local population. Instead, they should be treating this as an opportunity to discover what they can do to reduce their own risk of contracting a condition that is having a big impact on people the world over.”
Diabetes is a serious disease that in the worst cases can lead to cardiovascular problems, renal failure, blindness and even amputations. Learning how to monitor and manage your glucose levels is a critical part of staying healthy.
Understanding the condition
There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 (insulin dependent) – Stemming from childhood in most cases, but typically before the age of 40, it occurs when the body is unable to produce a hormone known as insulin. Sufferers are required to take a daily dose of insulin to avoid a build up of glucose in the blood.
Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) – The most common form of diabetes, type 2 now accounts for between 85 and 95% of all diagnoses. It is typically associated with the over-40s, but is affecting growing numbers of younger people – including children. Type 2 occurs when the body becomes unable to produce enough insulin or is unable to use it properly (insulin resistance). It is treated with a healthy diet and increased physical activity, as well as any required medication.
In recent years, type 2 diabetes has attracted some fairly bad press – with its known links to obesity and more sedentary lifestyles prompting many to label it as a preventable or man-made disease, with some experts suggesting it should even be renamed ‘Walking Deficiency Syndrome’.
“This is vastly over-simplifying the disease,” insists Dr Clarke. “While being obese and inactive is certainly known to exacerbate the risk and severity of type 2, the fact is that anyone with a genetic predisposition to diabetes can develop the condition – even those with an ideal BMI and fitness levels.”
Recognising the symptoms
While the symptoms can be hard to spot, things to look out for include:
- Weight loss
- Frequent urination
Prevention and treatment
The good news about type 2 diabetes is that, for the most part, it responds well to diet and lifestyle changes, so if you’re beginning to display some of the signs of the disease – or have been given an official diagnosis, there’s still a lot you can do.
“If it is caught in its early stages, type 2 can be managed far more effectively,” Dr Clarke continues, “with the need for medication much reduced. In some cases, it may even be reversible. Unfortunately, we are seeing an increasing trend towards insulin dependence – when taking action in the early stages could have helped avoid this.”
Some of these key measures include:
- Reducing your carbohydrate intake to control blood glucose levels
- Examining your diet as a whole
- Getting more exercise
- If applicable, aiming for a normal bodyweight
In the UAE, metabolic surgery is also being considered as an option, with specialists from King’s College Hospital, London, reportedly interested in extending their research to Emirati patients.