About 90 per cent of people at risk of diabetes are unaware of the simple measures that can be taken to avoid developing the illness, doctors have said.
Endocrinologists at RAK Hospital said stress, lack of sleep and overeating were common contributors to diabetes — but all can be easily managed.
The advice came before World Diabetes Day on Monday, November 14.
The International Diabetes Federation reported that about one in 10 people — about 990,000 — have been diagnosed with diabetes in the UAE, while a further 634,000 have undiagnosed cases.
Worldwide, 537 million adults were living with diabetes in 2021, with that number expected to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045.
“Nine out of 10 people don’t know they have diabetes and without appropriate lifestyle management, 15 to 30 per cent of these people with pre-diabetes will develop it within five years,” said Dr Madhurima Deshmukh, a health, wellness and fitness consultant at Arabian Wellness and ProLife.
“If you’re experiencing stress or feeling threatened, your body reacts.
“This is called the fight-or-flight response and your body releases adrenalin and cortisol into your bloodstream and your heart and respiratory rates increase.
“This can increase blood glucose levels if the body cannot adequately process it.”
Dr Deshmukh said sleep deprivation reduces the satiety hormone leptin, increasing a desire for fatty or carbohydrate-rich foods, the heavy intake of which can also lead to diabetes.
Avoiding smoking and excess alcohol, reducing stress, having proper sleep and regular medical check-ups with frequent blood sugar level monitoring can also help reduce the chance of developing diabetes.
The risk of death for adults with diabetes is about 50 per cent higher than for those without diabetes.
To help keep the illness at bay, meals should be well balanced with foods low in carbohydrates and increased fibre.
By controlling portions, having regular meals and ensuring a healthy amount of sleep, it is easier to control the body’s natural defences.
“It is imperative there is greater education about this debilitating condition,” said Dr Deshmukh.
“A holistic lifestyle approach that includes a nutritious balanced diet, regular exercises or physical activity, weight management can make a big difference to the overall situation.”
Type two is the most common form of the illness and is related to poor lifestyle, while pre-diabetes indicates high blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and diminishes after a baby is born, but can put people at greater risk of developing type two diabetes later in life.
Obesity driving up cases
Obesity is a major contributing factor to diabetes.
The Global Obesity Observatory reported that 25 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women in the UAE are obese.
Insulin resistance, which usually develops in obese people, occurs when the pancreas struggles to regulate safe levels of the hormone, leading to type two diabetes.
Efforts have been made in the UAE to reduce the risk of the disease in children by introducing regular body mass index checks and greater education on the importance of good nutrition and exercise.
RAK Hospital launched a three-month campaign in September, challenging people to lose weight and cut their diabetes risk.
Cash prizes worth Dh20,000 in total will be awarded to men and women who best reduce their diabetes biomarkers and lower their body mass index.
“Being overweight also raises your risk for heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, so losing weight helps you prevent and manage these conditions,” said Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director at RAK Hospital.
“Losing as little as 5 to 10 per cent of your overall body weight can greatly improve type two diabetes.”