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Health And Family

There's a silent epidemic that is deadlier than COVID-19

OOH LA LAI - Lai S. Reyes - The Philippine Star
There's a silent epidemic that is deadlier than COVID-19
Stronger together: Novo Nordisk Phils. VP and GM Cihan Serdar Kizilcik during the 2019 World Diabetes Day celebration.

Did you know that the uncontrolled glucose in your bloodstream is far deadlier than the coronavirus?

Over 400 million worldwide are diagnosed with diabetes. And this silent epidemic is on the march. Based on the data released by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), diabetes has claimed (an estimated) 4.2 million lives due to complications in 2019 alone. That’s almost three times as many deaths as COVID-19.

When blood sugar is uncontrolled, the body will be in a state of stress and imbalance. The immune system goes down, making it susceptible to infections. And since the body’s defense is interrupted, it cannot fight off infections, more so the coronavirus.

“Diabetes is a far bigger pandemic than COVID-19,” says Cihan Serdar Kizilcik, VP and GM of Novo Nordisk Philippines, in a one-on-one virtual interview via Zoom. “Yet people pay little attention to it.”

In the Philippines, there are eight million people with diabetes. And among that number, only half know they have it.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of the rule of halves. Only 50 percent of people who have diabetes know that they have diabetes. And only half of this 50 percent go to a physician and seek treatment,” notes Kizilcik. “With the remaining 25 percent, only 10 percent gets medical help. These days, I’m afraid it’s worse.”

The 4 as of diabetes

Some of the risk factors, especially for type 2 diabetes, include family history, race, age and yes, depression.

“It’s a family disease. And so most people think that if they’re parents and elderly people in the family have it, then they will have a higher chance of acquiring the disease,” shares Kizilcik. “But the correct mindset — since you know you’re already predisposed — should be to take charge of your health.”

Knowing these risk factors is crucial to help identify which ones can be controlled and which ones are inevitable.

Global pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk Philippines, which has stood alongside the Filipino family in battling diabetes for years, reminds everyone that early detection and treatment of diabetes are important steps toward keeping people with diabetes healthy.

“Beyond awareness of the disease, acknowledging and accepting one has it is the first big and bold step in defeating diabetes,” explains Kizilcik, who highlighted the importance of the 4As — Awareness, Acknowledgement, Acceptance and Action — against diabetes during the virtual interview in observance of Diabetes Awareness Month.

The company, in partnership with the Quezon City Lions Club Inc., has come up with a Diabetes Risk Assessment tool that can be accessed conveniently online.

This free online assessment of one’s risk for type 2 diabetes takes only two minutes of your time. Just visit this link (https://healthtoday.ph/diabetes- club/) then click the start button to answer the survey. Listed on the survey are 12 questions based on the Philippine Guidelines for Diabetes. If you answer yes to three or more questions, it means you are at risk for diabetes.

Again, knowing isn’t enough. Doing something about what you already know is very important.

Diabetes is a chronic disease. If left untreated, it could lead to blindness, kidney failure, loss of limb and reduced life expectancy.

“Action is very important,” stresses Kizilcik. “One crucial bit of action is taking your medication regularly and leading an active and healthy lifestyle.”

Obesity can trigger diabetes

A sedentary lifestyle and food binges brought on by lockdowns are making more and more Filipino children and adults obese. And obesity predisposes them to diabetes.

An individual is considered obese if he/she has a Body Mass Index (BMI) or weight and height correlation of 30 and above. In Asia-Pacific, obesity is defined more strictly, with a BMI more or equal to 25.

Patients with a BMI of 40 and above are at risk of having obesity-related complications.

And yes, one of them is diabetes.

“To this day, Novo Nordisk’s focus has always been on diabetes prevention and treatment. But recently, the company realized the value of strengthening obesity awareness efforts, since non-communicable diseases — like diabetes — increase the morbidity and mortality risks linked with the disease,” explained Kizilcik. “Ergo, if we can manage obesity, we can prevent diabetes.”

Let’s defeat diabetes together — better!

Novo Nordisk actively takes part in creating innovations to help people fight diabetes. From its first slow-acting insulin (Novo Nordisk is celebrating its 100th year of insulin discovery) to addressing challenges to improve access and affordability of insulin to every Filipino living with diabetes, and further innovations over the years that help patients “defeat diabetes together — better,” the company supports the entire diabetes patient journey from prevention all the way to cure.

But despite of all these efforts, the numbers are increasing worldwide. To increase diabetes awareness worldwide, Novo Nordisk introduced its “Cities Changing Diabetes” global campaign, where it partners with cities and try to design a lifestyle that’s not leading to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. These include opening bike lanes and allocating spaces for exercise and sports.

In the Philippines, Novo Nordisk has various diabetes campaigns, and they partner with associations and the local government to make diabetes meds more accessible to those who can’t afford them.

“If only a diabetic patient decreases his blood sugar level by one percent — normalizing it — it could help save his eyesight and limbs, and prevent cardiovascular events like stroke and heart attack,” explains Kizilcik.

Remember, a well-informed diabetic patient can improve his or her quality of life.

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