422 million adults live with diabetes, UN health agency says

Updated: 2016-04-07 10:08


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422 million adults live with diabetes, UN health agency says

A campaigner poses with a placard during an event held to commemorate World Diabetes Day, in Kaduna, Nigeria November 14, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]

UNITED NATIONS - The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday the number of adults with diabetes has almost quadrupled worldwide since 1980 to 422 million, mainly in developing countries, driven by a rise in overweight and obese people, a UN spokesman said.

On the eve of World Health Day, which falls on Thursday, the WHO published its first "Global report on diabetes," which highlighted the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease.

Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, stressed that "if we are to make any headway in halting the rise in diabetes, we need to rethink our daily lives: to eat healthily, be physically active, and avoid excessive weight gain."

She added that even in the poorest settings, governments must ensure that people are able to make these healthy choices and that health systems are able to diagnose and treat people with diabetes.

WHO notes that diabetes is a chronic, progressive noncommunicable disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose.

It occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough of the insulin hormone, which regulates blood sugar, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.

Among the key findings from the report are:

-- The number of people living with diabetes and its prevalence are growing in all regions of the world. In 2014, 422 million adults (or 8.5 percent of the population) had diabetes, compared with 108 million (4.7 percent) in 1980.

-- The epidemic of diabetes has major health and socioeconomic impacts, especially in developing countries.

-- In 2014, more than 1 in 3 adults aged over 18 years were overweight and more than one in 10 were obese.

-- The complications of diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. For example, rates of lower limb amputation are 10 to 20 times higher for people with diabetes.

-- Diabetes caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012. Higher-than-optimal blood glucose caused an additional 2.2 million deaths by increasing the risks of cardiovascular and other diseases.

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