When you hear the word ‘diabetes’ what comes to mind? People automatically associate diabetes with high blood sugar levels, and that is correct but there is more to diabetes than just that.
SalamToday interviewed Dr Zanariah Hussein, who is the President of Malaysian Endocrine and Metabolic Society (MEMS) and Consultant Endocrineologist for Putrajaya Hospital to discuss on things about diabetes that most people aren’t aware of. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about diabetes.
DIABETES PREVALENCE RISING RAPIDLY
How common is diabetes? Very. Dr. Zanariah said that in Malaysia, diabetes hits 1 in 6 adults above 18 years old. “We think it’s increasing in prevalence. Prevalence of diabetes is high in Malaysia and it’s actually probably the highest in the Asean and Southeast Asia region.”
DIABETES INCREASES THE RISK FOR HEART-RELATED DISEASE
Most people are aware of diabetes complications such as kidney disease, limb amputation and blindness. But did you know that those with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease? Over time, high blood glucose can damage blood vessels and the nerves which control their heart and blood vessels. The longer a person has had diabetes, the higher the chances that he or she will develop heart disease.
“Diabetes really is a strong factor to develop heart disease blood pressure elevation and also cholesterol abnormalities. Diabetic patients are 2-4 times more at risk to get heart disease compared to people who do not have diabetes. The cause of death among diabetic patients 50% is due to heart disease,” said Dr. Zanariah.
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT CUTTING OFF SUGAR
“There’s lot of things that the public don’t really know how to control the sugar. It’s not just about not taking sugar but the sugar in your blood is the result of eating carbohydrates and your own body making sugar. It’s not just stopping sugar simply in your diet to control your sugar. You have to look at the carbohydrate intake such as rice, noodles , potatoes anything with flour and starch,” said Dr. Zanariah.
If you have a family history of diabetes, there’s a strong risk you’ll get diabetes. “If your both your parents have diabetes, then the chances are half of the offspring will have diabetes. For example, if two parents have diabetes and they have four kids, its likely 2 out of 4 kids will have diabetes.
“But it doesn’t meant that you have to get diabetes early in life. If you have a family history and you know you are at risk, you can take care of yourself better and can delay diabetes until much later or you can get a milder form because you look after yourself. Having a family history doesn’t mean all is lost. You can work on looking after yourself much better if you know your risk.”
PATIENTS ARE GETTING YOUNGER
In Malaysia, diabetic patients are getting younger. “When I look at our national health statistics back in 2015, there are about more than 400,000 Malayians below 30 with diabetes. That is a huge number. The only problem is that when you’re below 30 you don’t really go for a check unless you have symptoms.
“Among the young adults aged below 30, there is a high rate of undiagnosed diabetes. This means they are walking on the streets with diabetes only that it has yet to be diagnosed because it hasn’t gone severe enough to show symptoms or experience complications.
When we talk about Asia, the trend of diabetes is still on the rise among countries with lower income groups but it’s quite the opposite for developed nations like North America and Europe.
“In Asia it seems to be increasing and the rate of young onset diabetes is also high, so the diabetes trend is more in Asia compared to the Western world,” she said.
“My message is that we really need to reduce the risk for young people. We can encourage the young to stay healthy, to keep physically fit. After all when you’re young, that’s when you can spontaneously move a lot.
“Health is a priority, do not wait until you are older to make health a priority. Young people need to be healthy and enjoy their life,” said Dr. Zanariah.
Dr.Zanariah was met at an event held by MEMS and Malaysian Diabetes Educators Society (MDES) to launch a campaign to increase public awareness and to educate Malaysians about diabetes related heart disease called For Your Sweetheart campaign.