Diabetic numbers growing to epidemic proportions

National Council chair: "We're working to prepare prevention programs that will bring about a reduction in new cases in Israel."

November 15, 2011 02:52
2 minute read.

diabetes_150. (photo credit: Stockbyte)


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The number of Israelis with diabetes – today there are 500,000 diagnosed and an equal number as yet undiagnosed or with pre-diabetes – will double to two million by 2025, unless the health authorities take action to fight it.

During Monday’s annual International Diabetes Awareness Day, the National Council for Diabetes and the International Diabetes Federation reiterated the importance of educating the public about the dangers of the disease.

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National Council Chairman Prof. Itamar Raz said: “The diabetes epidemic is largely the failure of the society and the medical and educational systems in for years focusing solely on treating patients. Educating towards awareness of the importance of a healthy way of life, while performing early diagnosis of high-risk populations and treatment, would have reduced the numbers by tens of percentage points in a few years.

“We are working to prepare prevention programs that will bring about a reduction in new cases in Israel,” continued Raz, who heads the diabetes unit at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood.

Dr. Sigal Shaklai, an endocrinologist at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, said the prevalence of the metabolic disease is rising here and abroad. Every year, another 30,000 patients are diagnosed, totaling 10 percent of the population.

About a quarter of people over age 65 have diabetes, she said. About 2,500 die each year from complications on blood-sugar imbalance.

Prevalence is higher in low socioeconomic groups, including the Arab population.

Among Jews of Ethiopian origin, the diabetes rate has risen dramatically from 0.4% to 16% due to changes in lifestyle.

Compared to the rest of the Western world, the mortality rate from complications of diabetes is, at 33 per 100,000 – significantly higher than in Europe (13 per 100,000) and the US (20 per 100,000).

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of diabetes type II cases are diagnosed in overweight people, and 44% are caused by obesity resulting from unhealthy lifestyles.

Around the world, the number of diabetics (most of them with Type II diabetes that results from lifestyle problems rather than the autoimmune Type I form) has risen from 153 million in 1980 to 347 million in 2008; the figure is expected to rise to 472 million in 2030.

The Western lifestyle of lack of exercise, eating junk food and obesity is responsible in addition to the aging of the population.

Complications affect the kidneys, eyes, nervous system, blood vessels, heart and lower limbs. Treatments include oral pills, insulin injections, diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes. Various new medications that increase the excretion of natural insulin – only some of them in the basket of medical technologies – are given to control sugar-insulin balance.

Another type of drug controls the release of sugar into the blood and may even slow the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas. Experts recommend individualization of treatment depending on age, stage of disease, complications and other chronic disorders.

The economic cost of diabetes in Israel is some NIS 10 billion, or a fifth of national health expenditures.

Measures to prevent complications include annual tests of protein in urine, eye examinations, normalizing blood pressure rates, treatment of high cholesterol and monitoring of the lower limbs.

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