Diabetes robs more women of healthy future
World Diabetes Day focuses on the right to a healthy future, writes Vuyo Mkize
WOMEN are often the primary caretakers in the family and play a central role in the long-term health status of children and other household members. But this crucial role could diminish in the next few years as women face their own health-care battles. One major challenge is diabetes, with the latest statistics showing that women remain the most vulnerable to this lifestyle disease compared with men.
Diabetes has become the biggest killer of South African women and, according to Statistics SA, the statistics paint an even worse story on its socio-economic toll.
According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), 200 million women live with diabetes worldwide. This is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040. It is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths a year.
Unfortunately, because of poor socio-economic conditions, girls and women with diabetes experience barriers in accessing cost-effective diabetes prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment and care, particularly in developing countries.
Socio-economic inequalities also expose women to the main risk factors of diabetes, including poor diet and nutrition, physical inactivity, tobacco consumption and harmful use of alcohol.
World Diabetes Day is observed today and the theme this year focuses on: Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future.
Commenting on the severity of the illness and how it’s being managed, Astra-Zeneca Pharmaceuticals’ medical adviser Arvind Hariram said: “While existing medicines have been of great benefit in the management of diabetes, treatment goals still remain suboptimal and there’s a need for newer treatment options to manage this disease.”
Speaking at the company’s Connecting Experts in Diabetes Forum in Cape Town, key opinion leader and endocrinologist – Dr Sundeep Ruder made a strong case for education and advocacy in the treatment of diabetes, stating that science cannot be seen in isolation.
He said: “With current research showing the impact of stress, job strain, sleep abnormalities and food security on increased risk of diabetes – there’s now an even stronger need for education to better manage the pandemic.”
According to the diabetes federation, about 20.9 million of women worldwide (16.2%) who gave birth in 2015 had some form of hyperglycaemia in pregnancy.
Figures show that half of women, particularly those in their child-bearing years, are worst affected by diabetes with one in seven births affected by gestational diabetes mellitus. Half of those who experienced diabetes during pregnancy are likely to develop Type 2 diabetes within five to 10 years after delivery.
Half of all cases of hyperglycaemia (insulin resistance) in pregnancy occur in women under the age of 30, with the majority of these cases happening in lowand middle- income countries, where access to maternal care is often limited.
Women with Type 2 diabetes are almost 10 times more likely to have coronary heart disease than are women without the condition.
Dr Larry Distiller, a specialist physician and endocrinologist who also chairs the Centre of Diabetes and Endocrinology, said that this year’s awareness campaign was focused on promoting the importance of affordable and equitable access for all women at risk for, or living with, diabetes.
The campaign advocates that women and girls are key agents in the adoption of healthy lifestyles to improve the health and well-being of future generations.
“While we advocate an awareness of diabetes for all people, this year’s campaign specifically aims to highlight the essential diabetes treatments and technologies, self-management education and information that women require to achieve optimal diabetes outcomes and strengthen their capacity to self-manage or prevent Type 2 diabetes.”
Distiller said women with diabetes could have poor pregnancy outcomes if good care was not accessible from preconception through to post-delivery.
POWERFUL LIFESTYLE: Highlighting diabetes treatments and technologies, self-management education and information.