Diabetes mellitus, a pervasive and multifaceted health concern, continues to cast a shadow over the global population, with an alarming rise in prevalence. As we mark World Diabetes Day on November 14, it is crucial to delve into the intricacies of this chronic disease that knows no bounds of age, gender, or social status. With a staggering 537 million individuals worldwide living with diabetes and projections reaching a daunting 783 million by 2045, the urgency to address this silent pandemic cannot be overstated.
In North America and the Caribbean, where Mexico holds a prominent position, the grip of diabetes is tightening. According to Sergio Alberto Mendoza Álvarez, an academic from the UNAM School of Medicine, the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in Mexico alone is a concerning 12.6 percent, with an additional 5.8 percent undiagnosed, totaling a significant 18.4 percent of the population over 20 years old. The threat extends beyond diagnosed cases, encompassing the 22 percent on the brink of diabetes with prediabetes.
The influence of the western world on dietary habits has paved the way for a diabetes epidemic. Changes in eating patterns, coupled with the impact of marketing through social networks and media, have led to the consumption of low-nutrient, high-glycemic foods like chips, soft drinks, bread, pasta, and flour. This dietary shift has fueled not only diabetes but also obesity, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular diseases, forming a dangerous trifecta that threatens the well-being of millions.
Diabetes, far from being a standalone ailment, initiates a domino effect of complications. Diabetic patients face heightened morbidity and mortality due to chronic complications, including microvascular issues like retinopathy, nephropathy, and neuropathy, as well as macrovascular problems like ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. The interplay of factors such as obesity, kidney damage, and high cholesterol exacerbates the severity of the disease.
Keys to Prevention and Management
Mendoza Álvarez emphasizes the pivotal role of two keys in mitigating the impact of diabetes. The first is embracing physical activity as a non-pharmacological intervention, allowing glucose to enter tissues and be used as energy. The second is the pharmacological approach, specifically metformin, an anti-diabetic drug that reduces insulin resistance and aids in optimal glucose utilization by organs.
Identifying diabetes in its early stages is paramount, as it prevents costly complications such as renal and cardiac issues. Diabetic neuropathy serves as a marker, indicating inadequate control over an extended period. Timely diagnosis ensures effective management and reduces the risk of macrovascular and microvascular complications.
While medical interventions are crucial, empowering patients with information is equally vital. Alarmingly, only three out of ten adhere to treatment plans, and a mere 36 percent achieve target control of glycosylated hemoglobin. Universalizing awareness about this blood marker can significantly impact disease monitoring, with every one percent decrease in hemoglobin correlating to a remarkable decrease in the risk of heart attacks, amputations, microvascular diseases, and more.
As we observe World Diabetes Day, it is imperative that we recognize our collective responsibility in combating this health crisis. Diabetes's pervasive reach demands a united front against its insidious effects. By raising awareness, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and fostering timely diagnosis and management, we can pave the way for a healthier future, free from the shackles of diabetes.