By Poly Pantelides
CHILDREN in Cyprus have one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, making them more susceptible to diabetes, a stealthy chronic disease that may go undiagnosed for years, the health ministry’s deputy permanent secretary has said.
Christina Yiannaki said that one in two people who have diabetes are unaware of the fact. She was talking during a news conference ahead of Thursday’s World Diabetes day.
The health ministry previously said that one in six children in Cyprus were considered obese, close to one in four were overweight, while a third hovered on the highest limit of permitted cholesterol levels for their age.
In early January, the international diabetes federation (IDF) said in its 2012 report some 83,810 people aged between 20 and 79 were estimated to have diabetes in Cyprus, a third of whom only find out between four and seven years after the onset of the disease. IDF said that 470 people died in Cyprus from diabetes-related complications last year.
About 14,900 children in Cyprus aged up to 14 have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, usually affecting children whose body can no longer produce the insulin it needs to control the levels of glucose in their blood, IDF said.
The most common kind of diabetes is the lifestyle-related Type 2, usually developing in adulthood. Treatment may involve lifestyle changes and weight loss alone, medications or insulin injections. But Yiannaki warned that an increasing number of children in Cyprus were developing Type 2 diabetes.
Over all, diabetes costs the government close to €4.0 million a year, she said.
Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, is a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes and over time leads to serious damage to many of the body’s systems, especially the nerves and blood vessels.
Yiannaki said diabetes was the third most common cause of death in the world, and because of the complications related to the disease it ranked among the top ten diseases leading to adult disability.
Over 366 million people are diabetics across the world, and the number could double by 2030 unless authorities manage to take preventative action, she added.
The health ministry has identified treating and preventing diabetes as one of its priorities, and has been training health officials and nurses abroad to better staff the country’s clinics and health centres.