The Chair of the Dept of Internal Medicine at HMC, Prof Abdul Badi Abou-Samra
DOHA: Obesity, one of the pressing challenges being discussed at the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) 2013, is raising a lot of concerns as the leading cause of diabetes and heart disease, say experts.
Professor Abdul Badi Abou-Samra, Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) said: “The increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes in Qatar is very concerning, especially as the rates are already very high.”
Qatar is thought to have the sixth highest rate of obesity and the fourth highest rate of diabetes worldwide. Diabetes is a complex condition which can lead to debilitating long-term complications and acute illnesses. The disease has reached epidemic proportion in Qatar and it is estimated that as many as one third of diabetics are not aware of their illness.
“Science has proven the link between obesity and diabetes. Obesity has been found to be a major risk factor for Type-2 diabetes, accelerating its onset in a person’s life,” said Prof Abou-Samra.
“Diabetes is a very serious disease that creates a lot of social and economic burdens on the country. Nearly 16.7 percent of Qatar’s adult population suffers from this disease, which is very high compared to the global rate of seven percent to eight percent.”
“We are now also seeing diabetes cases in young children. Twenty years ago this was a disease of the old; the shift is happening because of the rising rate of obesity among children,” said Prof Abou-Samra. “Some people say that this is happening because of gene mutation; in my opinion it is not our genes that have been mutated, it is our lifestyle.”
“If we don’t intervene and change the lifestyle habits of the country, obesity and diabetes rates will continue to rise and this can have some very serious consequences,” he added.
Changing lifestyles is however a challenging process, he explained.
“To become healthy, people need to reduce their consumption of calorie-dense food and imbed physical activity in their daily routine, for example by walking when possible instead of driving.”
There are however simple and effective ways to incorporate physical activity into one’s daily routine, even for those with office jobs.
“Research has shown that spending one hour a day standing while doing office work can prevent obesity and is healthier for the joints and blood circulation,” said Prof Abou-amra.
“Taking the stairs instead of using elevators and choosing a parking spot that is further away from the entrance are also good tips.”
In addition to proactively treating obesity and diabetes, Prof Abou-Samra also emphasised HMC’s commitment to helping reverse the epidemic by actively looking at ways to address the metabolic problems of the population, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and dyslipid.