We must stand up and fight diabetes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 4:25am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 4:25am

Much has been said about a growing tendency for certain killer diseases to strike at an early age, and that a healthy lifestyle is the best defence. Yet the advice tends to be ignored until one becomes a victim. Despite promotion and education by health authorities around the world, awareness remains insufficient.

Credit goes to the Chinese University of Hong Kong for turning the spotlight on diabetes among younger people. According to a study of 10,129 patients by the university's Institute of Diabetes and Obesity, the disease has been diagnosed in 20 per cent of patients before they turned 40. While 60 per cent of these early onset patients had a family medical history, 30 per cent were not considered as overweight. The youngest is only three years old. What's more worrying is that young patient numbers are expected to double by 2030.

About one-tenth of the Hong Kong population suffers from diabetes, which is slightly lower than Singapore's 12.7 per cent, but higher than Japan's 7.3 per cent and Taiwan's 6.7 per cent. Room for complacency dwindles further when one in five Hong Kong diabetics is now under the age of 40. The findings have dispelled the myth that diabetes is a disease only associated with old age and obesity. They add to a wealth of medical evidence that the disease comes earlier than previously known.

Diabetes increases the risk of heart problems and stroke. Statistically, half of the patients die of cardiovascular disease. With 347 million patients worldwide, diabetes is poised to become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation.

Although diabetes has no cure, it does not mean nothing can be done. There is no shortage of research showing that couch potatoes and fast food customers are more vulnerable than the sporty and healthy eaters. Instead of being resigned to the trend and sitting back, we should, literally, stand up and fight. Exercising more is a good way to stay healthy, as is avoiding fast food and cigarettes.