Diabetes is a disease that occurs when an individual’s blood sugar is too high. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 19 million adults between the ages of 20 and 79 were living with diabetes in Africa as at 2019. This has left people wondering whether there are things that make one susceptible to the disease or whether it is the fate of all flesh to be at its mercy.
In this interview, Dr. Jean -Marie Dangou, the Coordinator-Noncommunicable Disease Programme for the WHO Regional Office for Africa talks about the risk factors that predispose people to the disease and how to manage them.
What is the level of awareness of diabetes in the African region?
The level of diabetes awareness in the African region is very poor. There is limited access to early detection and to screening for diabetes for the population.
In 2018, we recorded about 15.9million diabetes cases and 312,000 deaths from diabetes. This is very worrisome but in addition to that, more than 50% of people living with diabetes are unaware of their condition.
What are the risk factors for diabetes?
We have 2 groups of risk factors for diabetes. The non-modifiable risk factors- we cannot act on them. These are age and heredity. Any individual who is aged 50 and above having a first degree ascendant who suffered from diabetes is at a greater risk of diabetes.
The second group is composed of modifiable risk factors related to healthy lifestyle.
These are overweight and obesity, overweight and obesity are related to unhealthy diet; those diets rich in fats, sugar and salt. Also, living a sedentary life.
How can you lower or manage the risks of diabetes?
To lower and manage the risk of diabetes, governments should train more health personnel to prevent and control diabetes. They should equip health facilities for diabetes diagnosis and treatment. They should promote healthy lifestyle. For individuals and families, they should adopt healthy lifestyles, have less sugar, less fat, less salt and also have a very active life.