By Fazeena Saleem
DOHA: Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at a high risk of developing diabetes later in their lives, according to a senior health expert.
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed with diabetes exhibits high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. The condition prevails among 10 percent of women in Qatar.
Chances of such women developing diabetes type 2 increase with obesity, a major risk factor, especially after child birth and due to lack of physical activities, Dr Mahmoud Ali Zirie, (pictured) Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, Diabetes and Endocrinology, Hamad Medical Corporation, told this daily.
“When a woman is pregnant and diagnosed with diabetes, the risk of her developing it as a disease later is very high. Although it begins at the age between 22 and 35, the risk is in the future,” he added.
Also, polycystic ovary syndrome in the early stages of life leads to women developing diabetes at a late age. Although there are no specific statistics about women with diabetes in Qatar, six out of 10 people received at National Centre for Diabetes Treatment at Hamad General Hospital (HGH)are women. “We don’t know the exact reason, but among patients who come to our clinic, 60 percent are women,’’ said Dr Ali Zirie.
Diabetes can lead to debilitating long-term complications and acute illness. It has reached epidemic proportion in Qatar with about 17 percent of the adult population thought to have the disease.
Three surveys among Qataris in 1999, 2008 and 2013 found that the prevalence of diabetes is 16.7 among citizens. Majority were between 20 and 65. In 2013, according to International diabetes Federation, there were 282,530 cases in Qatar and 651 adults died from it.
‘’The prevalence is high and alarming, the main problem with diabetes is that it affects vital organs,’’ said Dr Ali Zirie.
This may not seem immediately obvious, but if one delves deeper it will be found that poor diabetes management could lead to damage to key organs – the heart, eyes, kidneys and nerves.
About 11 percent of Qatar’s population is considered pre-diabetic. But it is estimated that a third of diabetics are not aware of their disease. During annual awareness campaigns at HGH, at least 30 percent people are found with undiagnosed diabetes.
With recent statistics suggesting that over 70 percent of the population is overweight; awareness of healthy lifestyle practices is vital to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes in Qatar.
However, simply being aware of potential hazards, and knowing what to do to prevent them, can reduce the risk of developing diabetes significantly, says Dr Ali Zirie. “Prevention is very easy; it’s about doing small things and changing one’s lifestyle. If you exercise 150 minutes a week and lose five to 10 percent of your weight, you get benefits,’’ he said.