Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Hong Kong's Impending Diabetic Explosion

Not all is well in Hong Kong with the high numbers of young diabetic patients
It is frightening to read one in five Hong Kong diabetics is under the age of 40 -- and the number is expected to double by 2030.

A study by Chinese University of Hong Kong has found that diabetes is diagnosed in more younger people, with the median age at 50 now, compared to 57 in 1990.

Dr Andrea Luk On-yan, CUHK's department of medicine and therapeutics describes the results as "alarming".

"More complications arising from the illness are expected as the patients have the disease a decade earlier," Luk said.

CUHK's Institute of Diabetes and Obesity analyzed data of 10,129 patients at Prince of Wales Hospital, where they were diagnosed between 1995 and 2009. Twenty percent of the patients were diagnosed as diabetic before the age of 40.

Other interesting statistics is that 30 percent of the early onset patients were considered to be slim, while 60 percent had a family history of diabetes.

Luk said those who developed diabetes before the age of 40 had a 35 percent greater risk of developing kidney disease, and a 48 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

Last year the Hong Kong government warned that one in 10 Hong Kong people, or about 700,000 people had type 2 diabetes. That's slightly lower than the 12.7 percent prevalence rate in Singapore, but higher than 7.3 for Japan and 6.7 for Taiwan, according to the International Diabetes Foundation.

Luk said if a person's mother or father had diabetes, the risk of contracting the disease tripled. If both parents had diabetes, the risk was six times greater.

She added rapid lifestyle changes, uncontrolled diet and lack of physical exercise resulted in the rise of diabetes.

As diabetes often does not have obvious symptoms, many young and slim people go for years without realizing they have it.

Professor Juliana Chan Chung-ngor of CUHK said this meant sufferers were missing the "golden period" for treatment -- the first five years -- when the risk of complications such as blindness and kidney failure could be reduced.

Chan urged people to get checked regularly, and those who have a family history of diabetes should get checked sooner rather than later.

There are many people in Hong Kong who regularly -- ie everyday -- eat out and most of the time their food choices are not healthy. By the same token many are not exercising at all or enough.

The government needs to really make people more aware of diabetes, the symptoms and that if caught early, it could be controlled or even cured. I find many locals I meet have no understanding of what a good diet is or what makes a healthy lifestyle.

Otherwise the government's going to see massive healthcare bills, and wondering why more wasn't done in terms of preventative medicine.

On the other extreme, a man in Toronto has cut out added sugar in his diet for almost 600 days. Jason Holborn used to add half a cup of sugar into his Frosted Flakes or Cocoa Pebbles cereal every morning, or even add a cup of sugar to a cup of butter and eat them mixed together.

It was only when he decided to advertise to everyone by putting a sign on his window counting the number of days of not eating refined sugar did he really make an effort to quit. He had a few stops and starts, but now at over 574 days, he can't stop now.

Since then he's realized that sugar caused his extreme mood swings, he has lost some weight and now has a six-pack under his shirt and everything tastes sweet now -- even milk.

If only Hong Kong people were more aware of what they were eating -- but with the recent meat scare at McDonald's -- maybe they will now wake up and wonder where their food comes from and start making more smarter and healthier choices.

A healthier lifestyle means less trips to the doctor -- and wouldn't that make you happier?

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