Diabetes is booming in the UAE
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Diabetes is booming in the UAE

It has been reported that diabetes in the UAE is growing at a rather alarming rate. So many more people were diagnosed with diabetes in 2015 versus 2014 that you could say the disease is going through a boom time, and the trend is likely to continue. What should you know about the problem, and how can you address it?

One might assume that things have been steadily progressing and getting better in the UAE over the past half century. This is certainly not always true, though. Economically, the GDP – while it has risen by quite a bit over the past half century – has had a couple of large dips in just the past 8 years, one of which came in 2015. Another common metric of a country’s success, per capita income, had declined every year from 2004 to 2010, but has been rising ever since. When it comes to health, a consistently growing life expectancy can also be deceiving. While it points to overall improved quality of health, there are still specific instances where health is getting worse among the population of the UAE. One particular area where this can no longer be overlooked is diabetes in the UAE. Here, we examine the current state of the disease and provide general information about why it has been seeing unprecedented growth as of late.

Diabetes basics

Just for some general background on diabetes, as it will relate to the causation for figures later on in this article, the disease itself occurs when the body develops a resistance to the hormone insulin, which leads to the inability for cells in the body to absorb sugar. This then leads to a build-up of sugar in the blood stream, which then can lead to major health problems, and even death.

There are two different types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes develops in people at any size or age, and its exact cause is unknown at this point. As such, type 1 diabetes is not preventable at this time although everything from genetics to environment to diet to geographic location has been speculated to be a cause.

The more commonly found type of diabetes, although it is preventable, is type 2 diabetes, which has a whole host of risk factors that seem to lead to its development. These include:

  • Age: The older you get, the more at risk you are of developing type 2 diabetes.

  • Race: Certain races are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, including those of Latin, African or Native American descent, as well as others.

  • Genetics: If any of your immediate family members have type 2 diabetes, your risk of developing the disease is higher.

  • Sedentary lifestyle: Physical activity makes your body more sensitive to insulin, thus lowering your risk of developing diabetes

  • Weight: The more fat you have in your body, the more resistant your cells are to insulin, which can lead to diabetes.

  • Pregnancy: Some women can develop diabetes while they are pregnant. A baby weighing greater than nine pounds can also indicate an increased risk of developing the disease later on.

  • High blood pressure

  • Low “good” cholesterol or high triglyceride levels

The lowdown on diabetes in the UAE

Diabetes in the UAE is certainly no laughing matter, as its prevalence in the nation is not only rising, but seemingly booming at this time. While diabetic people accounted for 10% of the UAE’s population in 2013, this figure climbed to 14.6% in 2015.

In fact, the incidence of diabetes diagnosis in the UAE rose by over 35% in 2015 when compared to the year prior. This accounted for a total of 280,000 new cases of the disease, and brought the total number of diabetes patients in the UAE to over 1 million. This figure came to just over 800,000 in 2014.

So what could the cause for this increase be? Previous reports have stated, somewhat vaguely, that experts have cited “obesity, lifestyle, and greater awareness of the disease” as to why we are seeing such an explosion in new cases. This means that the there are two general reasons why the increase has been so high.

First, more people are actually developing diabetes in the UAE. Poor diets and too much time on the couch are leading to expanding waistlines, thereby highlighting that weight is directly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization reports that 34.5% of the UAE’s population is obese, while 70.6% are overweight. This is a big problem for developed countries in general, but is especially pronounced in the UAE, which was - despite being a relatively small nation – in the top 5 heaviest nations worldwide and has an obesity rate double the worldwide average and is a country where the average adult eats over 3,000 calories per day. Additionally, people in the UAE are living longer than ever before, so a corresponding increase in diabetes rates would be logical, as age is another risk factor.

Second, more people are checking with their doctors to see if they have the disease. This is likely due to increased awareness of the disease, as diabetes has been making headlines in the UAE for years now, and more and more people will have a close friend or family member that is living with the disease. Also, there has been a global proliferation of health consciousness that seems to be spreading across the developed world due to the quick information sharing that the internet has afforded.  

Living with the disease

No matter what the real reasons are behind the overall increase in diabetes incidence in the UAE is, the fact is that the disease seems to be more of a consideration for Emiratis than ever before. As a chronic illness, diabetes can be managed, but this is not always cheap. This consideration is especially important to those with health insurance plans that only meet minimum governmental requirements. For example, in Dubai the maximum limit on such plans is AED 150,000. This means that a particularly pricey procedure could lead to out of pocket expenses after the limit is met.

If you have any reason to believe that you of any family members are at high risk of developing diabetes, or you are already afflicted with the condition, you may need additional insurance coverage to ensure that you are not left with medical debt after your existing insurance plan has already met its maximum limits. Of course, if you live outside of Abu Dhabi or Dubai, you may not have any insurance coverage to speak of, so buying some would provide much needed protection from a lifestyle disease like diabetes.

A great way to purchase a new health insurance plan, or a top-up plan to supplement your existing insurance, is to go through an insurance broker like UAE Medical Insurance. Our experienced agents are standing by to find a custom tailored insurance solution for your particular needs, meaning that they can find plans that directly address diabetes in addition to any other health issues you currently have or are at risk for. Contact us today to find out more and receive a free quote!


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