UAE: 1 in 8 people has diabetes in the country, study reveals

Medical expert says an integrated approach may increase the chances of improving treatment, with a diverse team working together to manage related health conditions

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Ashwani Kumar

Published: Wed 23 Nov 2022, 5:59 PM

Last updated: Fri 25 Nov 2022, 4:11 PM

With an increasing caseload of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes globally, a multidisciplinary approach is needed to improve treatment outcomes, said a top medical expert.

Cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic (CRM) conditions affect more than one billion people worldwide and account for up to 20 million deaths annually, becoming the leading cause of death globally. In the Mena region, nearly 73 million adults live with diabetes.

“This number reflects the highest proportion of people living with the disease (diabetes) compared to other regions and is based on the International Diabetes Federation’s most recent study published in 2021.

"In the UAE, 1 in 8 people aged between 20 and 79 has type 2 diabetes, marking an alarmingly high rate for the population’s overall health as this is a chronic illness that needs to be managed effectively," said Dr Jalal Nafach, consultant endocrinologist, Dubai Diabetes Centre, Dubai Health Authority, during an interview.

"Additionally, 4,343 deaths are associated with diabetes on an annual basis in the UAE," he said on the sidelines of Boehringer Ingelheim’s ‘CRM 360 Meeting’ held in Dubai.

However, he said the total number of people living with the disease in the country could be "a lot higher"/ many people are left undiagnosed

"Many people are being undiagnosed as they show no symptoms in the early stages of the diseas," the expert added.


The pancreas, the heart, and the kidneys have an important connection as they have the potential to both positively and negatively impact each other. This interconnectivity means that when a person experiences disease in one of these areas, it increases the chances of one or all the other systems being affected.

“The body is made of complex systems that work together to create a state of balance. With type 2 diabetes, conditions of the heart, the pancreas and the kidneys are primary examples of this interconnectivity. Let’s take the renal system as an example. Having type 2 diabetes can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, which makes them not function as well as they normally would. Eventually, this can lead to chronic kidney disease, and should the condition worsen, this could ultimately result in kidney failure. To add to the extent of this interconnectivity, if a patient has high blood pressure, then kidney damage could worsen and chances of having a heart attack and stroke would increase,” said Dr Nafach, who is an American board-certified endocrinologist, University of Nebraska Medical Center in Nebraska, US.

A collaborative multidisciplinary approach may increase the chances of improving treatment.

A diverse team of experts can coordinate the treatment of related conditions to help reduce the effect of the disease on the cardiovascular, renal and metabolic systems of patients living with type 2 diabetes.

“Traditionally, managing type 2 diabetes was delivered through a single specialist setting with a primary focus on controlling blood sugar levels. However, now that the landscape for treating type 2 diabetes has evolved, it’s become vital to seriously consider the possibility of preventing cardiovascular, renal and metabolic conditions as well.”

Dr Nafach underlined that the magnitude of data from the region shows how seriously the interconnectivity should be taken and the need for a multisystem control to be in place.

“The market currently offers treatment solutions for multi-organ protection. When combined with a multidisciplinary approach to care, this can boost clinical practice and positively impact patient outcomes on their journey to better health.”

Dr Nafach noted that he aims to raise awareness about the factors which may put anyone at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“The most common factors include a family history of diabetes, pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure and carrying extra weight. The risk increases with age and is amplified with an unhealthy lifestyle, such as smoking or having an overall sedentary lifestyle. Whether you have any other risk factors or not, if you’re over 40 your risk of type 2 diabetes and other conditions is higher and as a healthcare expert, I urge patients to check their blood sugar levels by getting advice from their specialist and committing to regular health checkups that include blood sugar tests,” Dr Nafach said and added that any medical situation can be managed if people with diabetes or heart and kidney conditions consult doctors and have an open conversation.


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