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Over 4.5m people now living with diabetes in SA, as numbers continue to rise

On World Diabetes Day, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is releasing new figures that highlight the alarming growth in the prevalence of diabetes around the world. 38m more adults are now estimated to be living with diabetes globally compared to the results published in 2017. New findings published in the 9th Edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas, show that South Africa is now in the top 10 countries for absolute increase in diabetes prevalence.

The IDF Diabetes Atlas 9th Edition reports that the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa has reached 12.8%, now 137% higher than previously reported. In 2019, over 4.5m adults in South Africa are estimated to be living with diabetes – putting them at risk of life-threatening complications. Over 2m of these 4.5m, are undiagnosed and, as a result, may be particularly at risk.

Globally, an estimated 463m adults are living with diabetes and there are 19m in Africa alone. Type 2 diabetes accounts for up to 90% of the total.

The rise in the number of people with type 2 diabetes is driven by a complex interplay of socio-economic, demographic, environmental and genetic factors. Key contributors include urbanisation, an ageing population, decreasing levels of physical activity and increasing levels of overweight and obesity. For reasons which are unknown, type 1 diabetes is also on the rise.

Diabetes has an impact on all age groups, regardless of geography and income. Globally, over 1.1m children and adolescents are living with type 1 diabetes, while three in every four people with diabetes (352m) are of working age (20-64 years). The rise in prevalence is putting a strain on the capacity of countries to guarantee regular and affordable access to essential medicines and appropriate care. This leaves many struggling to manage their diabetes, placing their health at serious risk.

When their diabetes is undetected or when they are inadequately supported, people with diabetes are at risk of serious and life-threatening complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation. These result in reduced quality of life and higher healthcare costs, and place undue stress on families.

“Diabetes is a serious threat to global health that respects neither socioeconomic status nor national boundaries,” said Dr Dinky Levitt from Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, and member of the IDF Diabetes Atlas Committee. “The increasing prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is a wake-up call. Much can be done to reduce the impact of diabetes. We have evidence that type 2 diabetes can often be prevented, while early diagnosis and access to appropriate care for all types of diabetes can avoid or delay complications in people living with the condition Therefore, we must do more to prevent type 2 diabetes, diagnose all forms of diabetes early and prevent complications. Importantly we must ensure that every person with diabetes has uninterrupted access to the quality care they need in their communities.”

Other key global findings from the IDF Diabetes Atlas 9th Edition include: Diabetes is among the top ten causes of death, with up to half of deaths occurring in people under the age of 60; the total number of people with diabetes is predicted to rise to 578m by 2030 and to 700m by 2045; 374m adults have impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), placing them at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes; diabetes was responsible for an estimated $760bn in healthcare expenditure in 2019; and one in six live births are affected by hyperglycaemia in pregnancy (HIP).

The report adds weight to a forecasting study published in the Lancet medical journal last year, which predicted a large global shift in deaths from infectious diseases to deaths from noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney disease and lung cancer, reports Business Day.

The Lancet study found the top causes of death in South Africa in 2016 were HIV/Aids, lower respiratory infections and road injuries, with diabetes coming in sixth. By 2040, however, diabetes was predicted to be the leading cause of death, followed by road injuries, and lower respiratory infections.

Worldwide half the people with diabetes are undiagnosed, and in South Africa the figures are not much better. An estimated 2m South Africans do not know they have diabetes, according to the IDF.

[link url="https://www.diabetesatlas.org/en/"]IDF Diabetes Atlas 9th Edition[/link]

[link url="https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/national/health/2019-11-14-diabetes-rates-soar-in-sa/"]Business Day report[/link]

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