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Diabetes is one of the most prevalent health conditions. It affects people in every country, social strata and age group. Recent figures from the International Diabetes Federation show that approximately 537 million adults are now living with diabetes worldwide. This is a 16% increase from previous statistics released in 2019.

This rise in figures is concerning. There is no known cure for diabetes, and it can affect every part of a person’s body. What’s more, having diabetes increases the risk of other health conditions and can lead to strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, blindness and lower-limb amputation. All of these result in a reduced quality of life and higher healthcare costs, which can place a heavy burden on sufferers and on a country’s healthcare system.

The Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes is a genetic disorder that often shows up earlier in life. While Type 2 Diabetes is often diet-related and shows up later in life.

In Type 1 Diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Very little can be done to prevent Type 1 Diabetes. Whereas Type 2 Diabetes is more preventable because it is often caused by poor lifestyle choices.

Here are some common symptoms that could be an indication of Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Feeling hungry
  • Feeling tired
  • Slow wound healing
  • Recurrent yeast infections

Anyone can develop diabetes, but certain factors increase the likelihood. Here are some:

  • Being 45 years or older
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating unhealthily
  • Genetic predisposition, ie. having a history of diabetes in the family
  • Having a medical history of gestational diabetes, heart disease or stroke

The Good News: Diabetes can be Managed!

If detected early and properly managed, people with diabetes can live long and healthy lives. This, of course, depends on two things: easy access to medication; as well as awareness and education about the impact that lifestyle can have on managing diabetes.

If undetected, diabetes can worsen over time and cause other complications. So, getting an early diagnosis and the right treatment is important. Here are some tips from The Mayo Clinic, that can help you avoid complications if you have diabetes:

  • Make a commitment to managing your diabetes. Make physical activity and exercise part of your routine and make healthy dietary choices.
  • Test your blood sugar levels regularly. Record them so you are aware of spikes or lows – both of which can be life-threatening. Most patients will test daily, and some before every meal.
  • Don’t smoke! Smoking increases the risk of various diabetes complications including:
    • Reduced blood flow
    • Heart disease
    • Stroke
    • Eye disease
    • Nerve damage
    • Kidney disease
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. These three key points are a must:
    • Eating a healthy, reduced-fat and low salt diet
    • Avoiding excess alcohol intake
    • Exercising regularly
  • Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare professional. He/she will monitor your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol etc.
  • Go for regular eye tests. Diabetes can cause sight issues like retinal damage, cataracts or glaucoma. You want to catch these early.
  • Take care of your teeth and gums. Diabetes can make patients prone to gum infections.
  • Care for your feet. High blood sugar can reduce blood flow and damage the nerves in your feet. Don’t ignore pain, tingling or any loss of sensation in your feet.
  • Take stress seriously and minimise it if possible. Set yourself limits, prioritise tasks, practise relaxation techniques and get enough sleep.

Diabetes in Pakistan

Pakistan has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world. It is estimated that approximately 11% of the population suffers from diabetes and many others are pre-diabetic. There are several reasons for this, including diet and lack of exercise and even poverty.

In a country with high rates of poverty, addressing prevention and treatment is very challenging. The public healthcare system is underfunded and cannot cope with the number of people who need healthcare. While private healthcare is out of reach for most Pakistanis.

At Akhuwat, our Healthcare Services are key to the poverty alleviation work we do in Pakistan. Without proper healthcare, it becomes impossible for a person with diabetes to function, let alone work and lead a fulfilling life. Poor health perpetuates a cycle of poverty.

Akhuwat runs healthcare projects for underprivileged communities in Pakistan. We provide examinations and consultations without charge, followed by subsidised medicines and laboratory tests, where necessary. To date, we have provided treatment for half a million people with various conditions including diabetes.

In 2009, we launched the Akhuwat Health Centre which has expanded since to include a specialised diabetes wing. Many of the patients who benefit are the elderly who cannot afford treatment. Our interventions have made a positive impact on the lives of thousands of diabetes patients, who receive treatment without charge and education on how to better manage their condition.

You can find out more about our Healthcare Services and how to support our work, here.