Diabetes is extremely common in the UAE. But what is it? And how can we prevent it?

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body digests food.

Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose and released into our bloodstream. When our blood sugar goes up, our pancreas releases insulin. Insulin converts the glucose into our body’s cells for use as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, that can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

How many people does it impact in the UAE?
According to the IDF, 15.4% of the adult population meaning over 1.2 million people in the age range of 20-79 in the UAE have diabetes.

As of 2017, the UAE ranked 15th in the world for age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes in the population.

What are the types of diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes – In case of type 1 diabetes, our pancreas doesn’t make sufficient insulin. Type 1 is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction in the body due to genetic traits that are passed on.

Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, it is generally diagnosed in the pre-adult phase.

Type 1 diabetes is far less common than type 2 diabetes and occurs in only 5-10% of all individuals diagnosed with diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes – In type 2 diabetes, our cells stop responding to the insulin, which is known as insulin resistance. As a result of the insulin resistance, our pancreas produces more insulin to try to get your cells to respond. Consequently, our glucose levels rise, setting the stage for prediabetes, which leads to type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is more common and occurs in 90-95% of all individuals diagnosed with diabetes.

Pre-diabetes – Pre-diabetes is a serious health condition where our glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes.

Gestational diabetes – Gestational diabetes occurs when our body is unable to make enough insulin during pregnancy. The body develops insulin resistance due to hormonal changes and weight gain.

More than half of all women who develop gestational diabetes develop type 2 diabetes later on in life. As a result, it is important for women who have had gestational diabetes to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen.

How does one test for diabetes?
Testing for diabetes is really easy! All you have to do is test your blood sugar level.

This can be done in one of the following ways:
A1C Test – The A1C test measures average blood sugar level over the past 2 or 3 months. An A1C below 5.7% is normal, between 5.7 and 6.4% indicates you have prediabetes, and 6.5% or higher indicates you have diabetes.

Fasting Blood Sugar Test – This measures blood sugar after overnight fasting. A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal, 100 to 125 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes.

Glucose Tolerance Test – This measures your blood sugar before and after you drink a liquid that contains glucose. You’ll fast (not eat) overnight before the test and have blood drawn to determine your fasting blood sugar level. After drinking the liquid and blood sugar level is checked 1 hour, 2 hours, and possibly 3 hours afterward. At 2 hours, a blood sugar level of 140 mg/dL or lower is considered normal, 140 to 199 mg/dL indicates you have prediabetes, and 200 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes.

Random Blood Sugar Test – This measures your blood sugar at the time you’re tested. You can take this test at any time and don’t need to fast (not eat) first. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates you have diabetes.

How can one manage their diabetes?
There are various factors that affect your blood sugar levels so while it is challenging, it is possible.

Carbohydrate counting – Carbohydrates typically have the largest impact on blood sugar levels, so it is essential to know the amount of carbohydrates one is consuming.

Portion control – Identify what foods you consume regularly. By controlling portions for each food type, you can manage your blood sugar level.

Well-balanced meals – Try to ensure that as many meals as possible have a good mix of starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats. Try to substitute whole grains for refined grains where possible.

Have a regular exercise routine – Generally, adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity weekly. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day 5 days a week for a start!

How can Bayzat help?

Through the Bayzat app which is available to all our customers at no cost, users can access the Online Doctor Consultation feature.

This feature allows users to speak to a DHA certified doctor from the comfort of their own home.

For more information, visit the Bayzat website.

Sources
https://www.icldc.ae/about-us/p/UAE-Diabetes-Trends
https://diabetesatlas.org/en/resources/
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/index.html