Tackling diabetes in Dubai

The UAE has the 15th highest diabetes rate in the world. Join the fight

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The UAE has the 15th highest diabetes rate in the world. We take a closer look at the condition and where you can go for support and identify the condition earlier.

A report by the International Diabetes Federation (November 2013) suggests that 18.98 percent of the UAE population are living with diabetes, and there will be many more who are unaware they are at risk.

The UAE has seen a rise in the number of people with diabetes and Dubai is trying to slim down its waistline with incentives like the ‘Your Child in Gold’ scheme. This Dubai Municipality campaign offers kids their weight in gold for shedding excess pounds, which as bizarre as it may sound, might go some way to stem the increase in child obesity and diabetes. Such is the level of concern in the region, even US basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is coming to the region to promote diabetes care in October. Time Out speaks to Dr Muhammad Farooqi, director of Dubai Diabetes Centre, about the condition and how it can be treated.

What is diabetes?
When we say someone has diabetes what it means is that their blood glucose level is high. There are several types of diabetes but the most common ones are Type 1 and Type 2. When you look at the diabetic population as a whole, one out of ten diabetics is Type 1, while nine out of ten are Type 2.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2?
To understand the types, you have to understand how the body uses glucose. The bulk of our diet is made up of carbohydrates, these are converted into glucose. Glucose shows up in our blood and when you check the blood after a meal, the glucose increases. The pancreas produces insulin, and the job of insulin is to take the glucose in our blood and put it inside your cells to be used for energy. Insulin is like the key that opens the lock on the door of a cell, and asks the glucose to come in.

In people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not producing insulin. When they eat, their glucose goes up, but the insulin does not increase so the glucose remains in the blood and does not enter your cells. So they need to inject short acting insulin before each meal and take a long acting insulin once a day as well. They can live long and healthy lives as long as they take insulin as recommended.

With Type 2, this is generally a hereditary condition, where the body resists the effects of insulin. People with Type 2 do make insulin, but their body does not let it work. This insulin resistance develops over time and is often the result of weight gain.

So how can it be treated?
Firstly there is no cure, but you can control your diabetes. The two basic necessities of any diabetes treatment regime are a personalised dietary plan and regular exercise. Medications will also feature and can be either oral agents or injections. The treating physician will come up with the proper regime based on each person’s individual requirements.

Who’s at risk?
High-risk groups include people with a strong family history of diabetes, the overweight or obese, and those with a sedentary lifestyle.

How will you know if you have it?
Although there are multiple ways to make this diagnosis, the easiest one is a simple blood test, taken first thing in the morning after fasting for at least eight hours. If the blood glucose level is below 100 you’re fine. If it’s between 100 and 125, you are at a higher risk. This is called pre-diabetes so you need to follow a proper diet and exercise plan and also consult a physician. If it’s 126 or above, on two separate occasions, then it is enough to give you a diagnosis of diabetes.

How can it be prevented?
Eat right, exercise regularly and don’t gain weight. This is advice that we give to anyone to stay healthy and the same applies to diabetes.
Dubai Diabetes Centre of DHA, Al Hudaiba Awards Building, Block C, Jumeirah, www.dha.gov.ae.

Where to get support for Diabetes

Sweet Kidz Support Group
This non-profit support group was set up in 2003 and aims to empower parents of children with Type 1 diabetes. It offers advice on managing insulin injections at school, and offering a forum for youngsters and their parents to share their experiences.
support@sweetkidzdiabetes.com, www.sweetkidzdiabetes.com

Diabetes UAE
For information on the condition, living with diabetes, cooking tips, exercises and community action.

Dubai Diabetes Centre
Located on 2nd December Street, Satwa, this centre offers treatment, advice and blood tests, all in a state of the art, modern hospital.

Emirates Diabetes Society
A medical society that looks into the research of the disease. They also organise community outreach projects and publish a monthly newsletter about new technologies, treatments and diet recommendations.
ema@emirates.net.ae (04 337 7377)

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