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'Economic impact, mortality rate of diabetes could surpass HIV'

Dr Jacques Snyman said what was previously an uncommon disease in Africa has reached epidemic proportions.

FILE: Clinical advisor Dr Jacques Snyman predicts that the economic impact of diabetes and its mortality rate will soon surpass that of HIV and Aids. Picture: Free Images.

CAPE TOWN - Clinical advisor Dr Jacques Snyman predicts that the economic impact of diabetes, as well as its mortality rate, will soon surpass that of HIV and Aids.

Snyman said the disease has grown at unprecedented levels in Africa.

"What was previously a very uncommon disease in Africa has now reached epidemic proportions with devastating consequences due to an increase in western lifestyle adoption.

"Not only does South Africa need to stem the massive tide of people developing diabetes, but adequate measures also need to be implemented to manage the millions of people currently living with the disease, so they can live full and productive lives while reducing the burden on our healthcare system."

Snyman said diabetes is a challenging disease to successfully manage and many issues beyond mere glycaemic control need to be tackled.

"Unfortunately this is where South Africa is falling short."

He added that even though the care regimen can be complex, patients who take their medication as prescribed and who engage in healthy behaviours such as eating a wholesome diet, exercising regularly and not smoking or drinking alcohol can live normal, healthy lives.

However, he said many patients are not achieving adequate glycaemic control and diabetes-related complications are all too often a result.

Statistics show that only between 22 and 56% of people diagnosed with diabetes adhere to their treatment regimens 80% of the time.

Another problem he identified is that diabetic patients are not going for their HbA1c test, a lab test that shows the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the previous three months, on a regular basis.

"This test is a laboratory blood test which measures average blood glucose management over the previous weeks. The HbA1c test is a useful monitoring tool for doctors and patients because it gives an indication of longer-term blood glucose control and it shows where patients have 'cheated' or not complied with their medication."

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