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Diabetes at a glance

"Diabetes is a major threat to global public health that is rapidly getting worse, and the biggest impact is on adults of working age in developing countries."

Diabetes is a life-threatening condition

  • Worldwide, 3.2 million deaths are attributable to diabetes every year.
  • One in 20 deaths is attributable to diabetes; 8,700 deaths every day; six deaths every minute.
  • At least one in ten deaths among adults between 35 and 64 years old is attributable to diabetes.
  • Three-quarters of the deaths among people with diabetes aged under 35 years are due to their condition.

Diabetes is a common condition and its frequency is dramatically rising all over the world

  • At least 171 million people worldwide have diabetes. This figure is likely to more than double by 2030.
  • In developing countries the number of people with diabetes will increase by 150% in the next 25 years.
  • The global increase in diabetes will occur because of population ageing and growth, and because of increasing trends towards obesity, unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles.
  • In developed countries most people with diabetes are above the age of retirement, whereas in developing countries those most frequently affected are aged between 35 and 64.

A full and healthy life is possible with diabetes

  • Studies have shown that, with good management, many of the complications of diabetes can be prevented or delayed.
  • Effective management includes lifestyle measures such as a healthy diet, physical activity, maintaining appropriate weight and not smoking.
  • Medication often has an important role to play, particularly for the control of blood glucose, blood pressure and blood lipids.
  • Through the provision of optimal health care the risk of developing diabetic complications can be reduced substantially.
  • Helping people with diabetes to acquire the knowledge and skills to manage their own condition is central to their leading a full and healthy life.

In many cases, diabetes can be prevented

  • The prevention of type 1 diabetes is not yet possible and remains an objective for the future. The prevention of type 2 diabetes has been shown to be possible and requires action now.
  • Trials have shown that sustained lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For example, the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study showed that a better diet, increased physical activity and modest weight loss could substantially reduce the development of type 2 diabetes in middle-aged adults at high risk.
  • In all the studies conducted so far in people at high risk, lifestyle changes have been substantially more effective than the use of drugs.
  • The scale of the problem requires population-wide measures to reduce levels of overweight and obesity, and physical inactivity.
  • Informed policy decisions on transport, urban design, and on food pricing and advertising can play an important part in reducing the population-wide risks of developing type 2 diabetes.

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