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Nigeria’s diabetes prevalence rating

In a recent epidemiological data released by ‘Our World In Data’, Nigeria is said to have 3.60 per cent diabetes prevalence, making it the 37th…

In a recent epidemiological data released by ‘Our World In Data’, Nigeria is said to have 3.60 per cent diabetes prevalence, making it the 37th highest in Africa, ahead of 17 countries, including Gambia and Benin with 1.90 per cent and 1.10 per cent prevalence respectively.

According to the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, about 8.2 million Nigerians are at risk of diabetes even as about six million people are already living with the disease. Statistics from Our World In Data show that Mauritius and Egypt have the highest diabetes prevalence in Africa at 22.60 per cent and 20.90 per cent respectively.

According to Our World In Data, the percentage of people living with diabetes ranged between ages 20 and 79 in 211 countries in 2021, with data from International Diabetes Federation (IDF). It also revealed that 13 million adults living with diabetes in the IDF Africa region are undiagnosed; adding that diabetes was responsible for 416,000 deaths in the IDF Africa Region in 2021.

IDF’s 10th edition of the Diabetes Atlas estimates that 24 million adults aged 20-79 years were living with diabetes in the Africa Region in 2021. This figure, according to the report, is estimated to increase to 33 million by 2030 and 55 million by 2045.

In 2019, an estimated 463 million people had diabetes worldwide, accounting for 8.8 per cent of the adult population. Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90 per cent of all diabetes cases.

The prevalence of the disease has continued to increase in recent years, most dramatically in low- and middle-income nations. Rates are similar in women and men, with diabetes being the 7th-leading cause of death globally. The global expenditure on diabetes-related healthcare is an estimated USD760 billion a year.

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Type 1 diabetes, which can occur at any age, is partly inherited. The most common is type 2 diabetes, usually in adults, which occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. In the past three decades, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically in countries of all income levels. Type 2 diabetes makes up about 90 per cent of all diabetes cases.

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself. For people living with diabetes, access to affordable treatment, including insulin, is critical to their survival. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, the majority living in low-and middle-income countries, and 1.5 million deaths are directly attributed to diabetes each year. There is a globally agreed target to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025.

The classic symptoms of untreated diabetes are unintended weight loss, increased urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. Symptoms may develop rapidly (weeks or months) in type 1 diabetes, while they usually develop much more slowly and may be subtle or absent in type 2 diabetes. Several other signs and symptoms can mark the onset of diabetes although they are not specific to the disease.

The primary complications of diabetes due to damage in small blood vessels include damage to the eyes, kidneys, and nerves.  Diabetes also increases the risk of having glaucoma, cataracts, and other eye problems.

While there is no known preventive measure for type 1 diabetes; experts say type 2 diabetes, which accounts for between 85 and 90 per cent of all cases worldwide can often be prevented or delayed by maintaining a normal body weight, engaging in physical activity, and eating a healthy diet. Higher levels of physical activity of more than 90 minutes per day could reduce the risk of diabetes by 28 per cent. Dietary changes known to be effective in helping to prevent diabetes include maintaining a diet rich in whole grains and fibre.

Since the main cause of type 2 diabetes, which is believed to be the most common in Nigeria is known and can be prevented, we encourage Nigerians who are no longer in their youthful years to mind what they eat and drink as the disease is all about the lifestyle lived by individuals.

While we also advise Nigerians to go for regular medical checkups for early diagnosis, strict adherence to medical advice would help in managing the disease and further reduce all the risks associated with it.

Given that medical experts claim there is no widely accepted cure for most cases of diabetes for now, it would be wise for every Nigerian to avoid everything that could lead to it. Parents should work against obesity in children.

Country-wide public enlightenment about the causes of diabetes and its management is one sure way of reducing the country’s prevalence rate of the disease. When Nigerian adults limit their consumption of sugary beverages and eat less red meat and other sources of saturated fat, the current prevalence level could come down to a one-digit-rating.


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