Diabetes rising among Africa’s young adults

October 10, 2014

A group of software developers in Africa are developing mobile health apps among them application that will help monitor diabetic patients. Their interest in diabetes monitoring apps came after Doctors in Africa warned several years back that diabetes is on the rise among young people in the continent, attributable largely to sedentary urban lifestyles and increasingly high levels of obesity. An estimated 29 percent in urban areas and 14 percent in rural areas suffers from the disease, most of them young adults, while 36 percent are at high risk of getting it, according to a study conducted last year. That figure is up from estimates of 2.4 percent in 1989 and 0.6 percent in 1979. The study also showed that Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Lagos, Cairo and Dar Es Salaam had the highest prevalence of obesity in the continent, with 51 percent of the 1,000 men and women in the 22 -35 age range surveyed falling under that category. Doctors blame the high level of diabetes in the capital and other big cities on urban lifestyles in which people tended to be careless about what they consume.

According to endocrinology and metabolism expert I spoke to few days ago, obesity is the root that gives rise to diabetes. A research conducted by University of Makerere in Uganda a few years back revealed that those with diabetes suffered from lipid or fat metabolism problems, which, if coupled with obesity, would lead to further diabetes-related complications. An African report in 2009 said diabetics suffer from dyslipidemia, a condition where their body has an abnormal amount of fats such as cholesterol. It also added that if they are someone is obese, it can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke. In Africa, at least 50 percent of diabetics had hypertension and dyslipidemia. With such complications, the life expectancy of a diabetes patients is reduced by five to six years according to various studies. It is also common that seventy-five percent of diabetics die of cardiovascular-related illnesses and diabetics are also twice as likely to suffer a stroke than non-diabetics.A molecular endocrinologist and diabetes specialist from a hospital in Melbourne whom I sought advise on this topic, said the increase in the number of diabetes cases was a major concern worldwide and Africa is not an exclusion. Diabetes is a disease that results in more kinds of severe complications for patients than any other disease, and some of these complications can be fatal.

It’s also a burdensome and costly condition to treat. In Africa, it is as a result of longer life expectancy, sedentary lifestyles and changing dietary patterns and the scary and sad thing is that most of the patients in African countries don’t know that they’re suffering from diabetes,according to research, with more than 80 percent of diabetics said to have visited doctors after experiencing complications such as retinopathy, an inflammation of the retina of the eye. The most common complications arising from diabetes in Africa is the so-called “diabetic foot,” in which patients suffering from the disease are likely to develop an infection or gangrene in their foot. This condition occurs in 22 percent of all diabetics in Africa and is responsible for 92 percent of all lower-leg amputations among diabetics. Though diabetes is not a curable disease, patients could still lead normal lives by following some basic healthy guidelines. In the words of experts, they need to adopt a healthy lifestyle and follow their doctor’s instructions in order to control their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of suffering from complications and treating the disease is not cheap.

Contador Harrison