12 November 2004

--- 1 Out of 25 Filipinos is a Diabetic

Are you a pre-diabetic? Do you have Pre-Diabetes?

November 14th is World Diabetes Day, and this year's World Diabetes Day theme is "Fight Obesity, Prevent Diabetes." How apt. It cannot get any clearer than that. The food you take now might take you down tomorrow.

If you're a regular reader here, you'll know by now how I rant against obesity and smoking, and today is no different from those days. Today, I'll talk about the condition known as Pre-Diabetes.

Pre-Diabetes is the stage before you develop type 2 diabetes, and it is characterized by having higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be classified as outright type 2 diabetes. It is some sort of "gray area" between normal and having diabetes.

Doctors all over the world are now shifting their treatment strategies by focusing on the pre-diabetics, because it is in this stage when it is still possible to prevent diabetes onset.

In the Philippines, 1 out of 25 Filipinos are diabetic. According to the Philippine Diabetes Association (PDA), there are 3.36 million Filipino diabetics today. It is unfortunate and forgive me if I cannot refer you to any online links, because sadly the PDA (in this day and age!) has no website. I am quoting from data I researched. The PDA predicts that 20 years from now, around 8.4 million Filipinos would be diabetic.

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) predict that the current global diabetic population of 150 million (!) would double (!) by year 2025. The usual suspects are still the usual suspects: obesity, a fat-rich diet, and a sedentary lifestyle.

The data above also tells us that today, we walk among pre-diabetics. It can be your parents, your relatives, your best friend, and heaven-forbid....it can be you! How else can the PDA account for its predicted diabetes incidence increase in the next 20 years if not for the existence of pre-diabetics? If we do our math, I think it is safe to assume that there are more than 5 million pre-diabetic Filipinos today.

Prevention is our best way out of this dreadful disease.

"If we can identify people before they get to the point of having diabetes, we can intervene," said Cathy Tibbetts, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. "In about 58 percent of the cases, with healthier eating and increased physical activity and a moderate loss of weight, people can successfully avoid diabetes or delay its onset."

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that's needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy for cells. Most people have type 2 diabetes, which develops as the body gradually loses its ability to metabolize blood sugar.

The US government adopted new guidelines this year for determining whether a person is at risk for diabetes. Under those guidelines, two of every five adults aged 40 to 70 is now considered to have pre-diabetes.

Under previous guidelines, a person was considered to have pre-diabetes if their sugar level after an all-night fast was 110 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Now, pre-diabetes is diagnosed for sugar levels between 100 and 125 mg/dl.

[Forbes, Health]

I am still wondering what the PDA guidelines are for pre-diabetes here in the Philippines. It is easy to copy the US guidelines, but I think it is ideal if we can develop our own set of guidelines thru research. The Filipino habitus is certainly different from that of the Americans. This is an unsolicited suggestion on my part. Americans have different lifestyles from Asians and Filipinos, and I think this greatly affects normal and abnormal blood sugar levels.

You can prevent pre-diabetes and diabetes by adapting a healthy lifestyle consisting of proper nutrition --- making the right food choices --- and injecting a healthy amount of physical activity or exercise into your daily routine.

"The most important thing is to stay lean and become fit," he said. "If you're overweight, lose weight. And if you're sedentary, then increase your activity. It's as simple as that."

Losing just 5 percent of body weight --- 10 pounds for a 200-pound adult --- can bring a person's blood sugar down below pre-diabetes levels.

The diabetes association recommends that people exercise portion control. Simply eating less can go a long way toward arresting obesity.

Other association diet tips include:

  • Eat a total of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

  • Aim for at least 6 daily servings of unrefined starches such as bread, cereals and starchy vegetables.

  • Eat sugar, sweets and desserts in moderation. These foods tend to be high in calories and fat and contain few vitamins and minerals.
Physical activity also is an important part of weight management, and thus an important way to avoid diabetes. Exercise can boost your metabolism, increase muscle mass so you burn more calories, and help improve the body's response to insulin and naturally help to lower glucose by burning extra calories.

[Forbes, Health]

More details on Pre-Diabetes can be read here.

While there is time, do something.

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