World Diabetes Day: Expert calls for attitudinal, diet change

...Says 1in10 Nigerians is diabetic

In commemoration of this year’s World Diabetes Day tagged, Access to Diabetes Care; If not now, when?, experts have called for attitudinal and lifestyle changes taking into cognizance that type 2 diabetes is more of a lifestyle disease. Accordingly, one in 10 Nigerians are believed to be diabetic while a recent meta-analysis report indicates that approximately 5.8 percent (about 6 million) of adult Nigerians are living with Diabetes mellitus (DM). However, experts have likened this figure to a tip of an iceberg as it is estimated that two-thirds of diabetes cases in Nigeria are undiagnosed.

Commemorated annually on 14 November, Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough or respond normally to insulin, causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to be abnormally high. Urination and thirst are increased, and people may lose weight even if they are not trying to.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 422 million people Worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries like Nigeria, and 1.6 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year. Both the number of cases and the prevalence of diabetes have been steadily increasing over the past few decades.

“Nigerians can be very busy but not active, with bikes and keke everywhere to take us even to the shortest walkable distance. The physical activity recommendation for a healthy adult is a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise. However, for diabetics, it is recommended to do a minimum of 300 mins of physical activity every week. That is 50 mins 6 times a week. Now this can be spaced out throughout the day,” said Chinasa Amadi, Lifestyle Medicine Physician and member, Society of Lifestyle Medicine of Nigeria at the 2021 World Diabetes Day press conference organized by Mega Lifesciences in Lagos.

Read also: Free diabetes screening open to 10 million in Ogun

According to Amadi, the national institute of health study showed that Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) dropped three times as much on a plant-based diet and medication requirement dropped about two times. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test measures the amount of blood sugar (glucose) attached to hemoglobin, which is a part of the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Hence, there is a need to go back to the basics with our diet choices. “We have more affinity now for processed and packaged foods than our good old whole foods,” she stated.

Speaking further on the risk factor, Amadi said important risk factors for DM among Nigerians include urban dwelling, unhealthy dietary habits, cigarette smoking, old age, physical inactivity, obesity, and a family history of DM. Accordingly, she said the Adventist health study (a cross sectional study) showed that regular meat consumption nearly doubled the risk of having diabetes. “An 8-year follow up of the nurses’ health study of over 9000 women, showed that processed meats (sausages, bacon, ham, kilishi) five times or more a week was associated with an increased risk of diabetes,” said Amadi.

Femi Fasanmade, professor of Endocrinology at the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Nigeria, said access to care is still a major challenge in Nigeria. According to him, the current ratio of 300 doctors to 7 million diabetic patients is the reason many do not have access to care. “If you don’t know you have a medical condition; you cannot seek care,” he said, advocating for lifestyle changes among Nigerians.

According to Fasanmade, the prevalence of diabetes is higher compared to other diseases like HIV/Aids, Covid. However, only about 50 percent of diabetic patients know about their condition because it is generally a silent condition for most of the victims. “Out of those 550 million, about 270 million people are walking around not knowing they have the condition,” he said, disclosing that it is the reason for the late presentation.

Maneesh Mehra, the regional director, Mega Lifesciences, said the company is committed to providing safe and effective healthcare services that will enable Nigerians better manage their lifestyle diseases.  “…to make people stay healthy as long as they live,” he said. According to Mehra, Mega Lifesciences, a leading provider of Diabetes medication in commemoration of World Diabetes Day, aims to increase public awareness on leading diabetes care through an interactive session.

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