Di­a­betes: SA women’s big­gest killer

Di­a­betes has be­come the big­gest killer of South African women, writes Vuyo Mk­ize

Daily News - - FRONT PAGE -

WOMEN are gen­er­ally 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 more vul­ner­a­ble to this life­style dis­ease com­pared to males.

Lo­cally, di­a­betes has be­come the big­gest killer of women, and ac­cord­ing to the Statis­tics SA – the statis­tics paint an even worse story on its so­cio-eco­nomic toll.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Di­a­betes Fed­er­a­tion (IDF), al­most 200 mil­lion women live with di­a­betes world­wide. This to­tal 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 per year.

Un­for­tu­nately, be­cause of poor so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions, girls and women with di­a­betes ex­pe­ri­ence bar­ri­ers in ac­cess­ing cost­ef­fec­tive 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 is be­ing man­aged, Arvind Hari­ram, As­tra-Zeneca Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals’ med­i­cal ad­viser, 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 progressive dis­ease.”

Speak­ing at the com­pany’s “Con­nect­ing Ex­perts in Di­a­betes Fo­rum” held in Cape Town re­cently, lo­cal opin­ion leader and en­docri­nol­o­gist Dr Sun­deep Ruder made a strong case for ed­u­ca­tion and ad­vo­cacy in the treat­ment of di­a­betes, stat­ing that sci­ence could not 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 this pan­demic.”

Ac­cord­ing to the di­a­betes fed­er­a­tion, about 20.9 mil­lion women around the world – or 16.2% of live births to women – 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.

Even more distress­ing is the fact that half of those that 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, spe­cial­ist physi­cian and en­docri­nol­o­gist, who also chairs the Cen­tre of Di­a­betes and En­docrinol­ogy said that this year’s aware­ness cam­paign is 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 well­be­ing 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 added that women with di­a­betes may have poor preg­nancy out­comes if good care was not ac­ces­si­ble from pre­con­cep­tion through to post-de­liv­ery. In fact, with­out pre-con­cep­tion planning, type 1 and type 2 di­a­betes can re­sult in a sig­nif­i­cantly higher risk of ma­ter­nal and child mor­tal­ity and mor­bid­ity.

Women with type 1 di­a­betes have an in­creased risk of early mis­car­riage or hav­ing a baby with mal­for­ma­tions.

“To achieve op­ti­mal di­a­betes out­comes, women need to have ac­cess not only to di­a­betes treat­ments and tech­nolo­gies, but also to self-man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion and to good pre-con­cep­tion planning, an­te­na­tal and ob­stet­ric ser­vices to re­duce risks as­so­ci­ated with preg­nancy,” Dis­tiller said.”

Women – South Africa’s pri­mary care­tak­ers – are more vul­ner­a­ble to di­a­betes than men. This life­style-re­lated dis­ease has be­come the big­gest killer of South African women, with a mas­sive knock-on ef­fect.


First lady Bongi Ngema-Zuma get­ting screened for di­a­betes be­fore host­ing a fund-rais­ing high tea at the CSIR in cel­e­bra­tion of Women’s Month.

Blood sugar test­ing kits are used to mon­i­tor glu­cose lev­els in the body.

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