Three new diagnoses of diabetes are made every 10 seconds, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and this weekend and next, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are getting their walking shoes on again to raise awareness of the debilitating condition.
On Friday, Yas Marina Circuit hosts the sixth annual World Diabetes Day Walk and the fourth annual Beat Diabetes Walkathon takes place in Dubai on November 23.
The Dubai walk is the work of the Landmark Group and part of a push to promote awareness of the disease in Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar and India. Data from the IDF shows that the number of people living with diabetes around the world is expected to rise from 366 million in 2011 to 552 million by 2030, unless swift action is taken.
And a walkathon is just the kind of action required, since many health advisers claim that a lack of everyday exercise, such as walking, is at the root of problems including weight gain that can trigger type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.
Last month, speakers at the Family Medicine Conference at the Abu Dhabi Medical Congress warned parents to pay special attention to the exercise levels of adolescents. Family physicians fear that the sedentary lifestyles of the young are set to trigger a diabetes time-bomb. This is bad news for states such as Dubai, where the health authority (DHA) estimates that fewer than 20 per cent of the population gets sufficient exercise.
“The chief cause for the elevated numbers of individuals with diabetes in the UAE is a lack of adequate awareness about the condition,” explains Dr Atul Aundhekar, from the iCARE Clinics. “Much of this is owing to busy lifestyles – residents tend to avoid undertaking [an] effective exercise and dietary -regimen.”
According to James Chandler, a senior fitness manager at Fitness First in Dubai Festival City, people should aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes moderate activity a day, with a mix of cardiovascular exercise such as vigorous walking or cycling and resistance training using weights. “Plan to incorporate five to six hours of physical activity in a week for weight management – and be sure to stay motivated,” says Chandler. Dealing with type 2 diabetes on a day-to-day basis can be a life-hampering ritual for many. Depending on the type and severity of the condition, it may be controlled through diet or by having to self-administer insulin. “Untreated diabetes can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, loss of vision, kidney failure and nerve damage,” says Aundhekar.
“The key to managing the condition involves regular checks on glucose levels and insulin audits, apart from keeping track of carbohydrate intake and exercise.”
For Ritu Raizada, a Dubai-based professional, it requires discipline and a blood-sugar diary. Raizada cites poor work-life balance as causes of her type 2 diabetes. “When I landed in the UAE, nine years back, I was 65 kilos but within a year, I weighed 120,” she says. Checks revealed she’d developed type 2 diabetes, along with other medical complications. “My blood sugar had rocketed – the only way to deal with it was to lose weight.
“I also hit the bed at about 10pm and wake up at 7am every day. Friends can’t believe it’s the same Ritu who could party till 5am. I lost about four kilos last month.”
Exercise checks for diabetics
Fitness First advises that before training, diabetes sufferers must ensure the following:
Always check blood glucose levels – if your levels are lower than 5.5 millimoles per litre (100mg/dl), take a carbohydrate snack just before you start your exercise.
Keep a drink handy – if your levels are above 5.5mmols/l (100mg/dl), you may not need extra carbohydrates before training, but it may be wise to keep a carbohydrate drink ready during, or right after, exercise. Ensure your levels do not dip below 4 mmols/l (70mg/dl).
Always carry a fast-acting carbohydrate food or drink when exercising in case your blood levels dip or you experience hypoglycaemia.
Always inform those around you that you are diabetic, so that they may help in the unlikely event you pass out. You can also wear a medi-bracelet or ID tag.
The World Diabetes Day Walk takes place on Friday at Yas Marina Circuit from 3pm. The Beat Diabetes Walkathon starts from the Oasis Centre, Dubai, at 7am on November 23. For more information visit www.facebook.com/beatdiabetes