Prediabetes is on the Rise in the UAE

While prediabetes is not high enough to be considered type 2 diabetes, unless some immediate lifestyle changes are made, it likely will develop into type 2 diabetes. HEALTH speaks with Dr. Ihsan Al Marzooqi, Emirati Digital Therapeutics entrepreneur to learn more.

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Defined

According to Dr. Al Marzooqi, prediabetes is a serious health condition caused by the body not responding in the normal way to insulin produced by the pancreas. “Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone that lets blood sugar into cells to use as energy,” he says, and prediabetes usually occurs in people who have some insulin resistance or whose cells aren’t making enough insulin to keep blood glucose within the normal range. A prediabetic patient’s blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He adds, “Eventually, without enough insulin, the extra glucose stays in the bloodstream and over time can develop into type 2 diabetes.”

In the UAE

With no clear symptoms in the early stages, he points out that prediabetes can go years without ever being detected and it’s currently affecting around 1.2 M people in the Emirates. “Prediabetes is rising in the region and the number of people impacted is alarming,” he tells, and this silent health crisis is affecting almost 15 percent of the UAE’s population; it’s most prevalent among UAE nationals, with around 19 percent of Emiratis and 15 percent of expatriates living with the condition.

Risk factors

Individuals over age 30, who are overweight, have a relative with type 2 diabetes, have a family history of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or elevated blood fats and who are physically active less than three times a week, are those who are most at risk and should be screened as per the UAE guidelines, explains Dr. Al Marzooqi. “In some cases, the disease only reveals itself and its long-term implications when patients’ need urgent medical attention.

Dangerous repercussions

Those unaware they are living with it could be leaving it too late to treat and end up with a life changing chronic condition and serious and long-lasting health problems, he says, warning the community that prediabetes almost always leads to type 2 diabetes and those with the condition are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke if it continues to be untreated. Prediabetes shows very little symptoms until it is in its advanced stages; therefore, it’s recommended that those who are most at risk should get tested.

The good news

The good news, he tells, is that prediabetes is reversible, type 2 diabetes is not, although it can go into remission, so proactivity in the treatment of this condition is critical. “There are two ways of testing, first is to do an informal assessment of risk factors, usually best for asymptomatic adults, or the second option is to do a blood test,” he explains. “The key to reversing prediabetes is really all about education on the lifestyle choices that are needed and increasing awareness about how the foods we eat and the levels of physical activity we partake in, can dramatically impact our health.” H

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