World Health Day 2016: The Rise Of Diabetes

Credit: Dennis Skley/Flickr

422 million people worldwide now have diabetes and the WHO is calling for action

It's World Health Day 2016 today, and the WHO is focusing on diabates - releasing a global report on diabetes and pushing for more education, prevention and activism worldwide. Cases have actually quadrupled since the 1980s and the bulk of sufferers now reside in 'developing' countries. This represents a huge challenge.  

Here's a run down of some facts:

Around 422 million people are currently living with diabetes, that's 1 in 11 people. this could double within 20 years

Diabetes was linked to 1.5 million deaths in 2012. A further 2.2 million deaths were linked to high blood glucose levels and associated disease

A blue circle is the global symbol for diabetes mellitus

In 2030, diabetes is predicted to be the 7th biggest cause of death 

Diabetic adults are 2-3 times more likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack

Type 2 diabetes accounts for the majority of cases. It's linked to a lack of physical activity and obesity and is largely preventable 

In the US, the associated health-care costs are estimated to rise from $113 billion to $336 billion a year by 2034. That's more than the market capitalization of Google

Credit: PracticalCures.com

What is type 2 diabetes? 

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which the cells of our bodies are unable to absorb glucose from the bloodstream leading to chronic high blood glucose levels (a condition known as hyperglycaemia). These high blood glucose levels are toxic to our cells and initiate micro and macrovascular damage which eventually results in coronary heart disease, stroke, nephropathy (kidney disease), neuropathy (nerve damage), retinopathy (eye damage), and chronic ulcers. In extreme cases, bacterial infections of these non-healing ulcers can lead to the need to amputate the affected extremity.  

In some cases diabetes can damage blood vessels in the eye, causing retinopathy and blindness

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes

The main risk factors for type 2 diabetes are obesity (especially visceral), age and genetics. 

Type 2 diabetes and aging

Type 2 diabetes was sometimes referred to as ‘diabetes of old age’. The reason for this is that the incidence increases strongly with age. However, in recent years more and more younger people have been developing type 2 diabetes and in extreme cases even teenagers. The fact that young people can develop the disease means that, while aging may be a risk factor, the disease is not a pure age-dependent one. In contrast Alzheimer’s disease is a 'real' age-dependent disease that never occurs before middle-age. 

One key question is whether the molecular, cellular, and organismal changes that occur during aging directly contribute to insulin resistance and hence the development of type 2 diabetes. Or, if instead age is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes because of some co-factor, such as the fact elderly people tend to do less physical exercise. 

If you want to learn more, check out our previous article on the striking statistic about diabetes 

Visit the WHO website to find out more about the campaign