[First of two parts]
The number of diabetics in the Philippines is projected to rise by 12 million by 2040, largely driven by more cases of type 2 diabetes due to the growing prevalence of obesity, sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets.
According to Dr. Jeremy Robles of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, the rise is projected to come from the most vulnerable part of the population: the millennials, business process outsourcing (BPO) workers, and overseas Filipino workers.
“These three groups are constantly exposed to work strain and/or emotional stress; have working environment that do not support physical activity; as well as having little or no access to affordable and nutritious food,” says Dr. Robles.
He believes the increase in the number of diabetics with serious health problems is likely to put an “unprecedented burden” on the national healthcare system and will continue to do so in the next two decades.
Previously seen in people over the age of 40, type 2 diabetes today, are now affecting an estimated 3,600 children and young adults in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom where nearly 7,000 cases were reported this year, according to medical journal, the Lancet.
“Disturbingly, this trend is reflected internationally. The millennials will be more susceptible as they are not eating better and exercising more, possibly due to environmental, lifestyle, and other factors,” explains Dr. Robles.
The danger is more pronounced among BPO workers―estimated to be over 1 million Filipinos―who mostly answer phone calls from different time zones and are thus, prone not only to sore throat, cough and sleep problems but also to risk factors linked to the development of diabetes: inactivity, weight gain, uncontrolled high blood pressure, as well as abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
“The same goes to our fellow Filipinos working abroad who often skip meals, work long hours, and even skip days-off to the point that they overlook their own health,” warns Dr. Robles.
“A lot of them forget the value of exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep in their quest to provide a better life for their families back home. These unhealthy habits leave them vulnerable to health risks such as diabetes,” he added.
The doctor says type 2 diabetes can be managed through lifestyle changes and moderate weight loss. “Diabetes management requires awareness. If you have diabetes, you need to know how foods affect your blood sugar levels. It’s not only the type of food you eat but also how much you eat and the combinations of food types you eat.” (to be continued)