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Diabetes Cases In The Philippines Continue To Go Up, Becomes 4th Leading Cause Of Death

Diabetes Cases In The Philippines Continue To Go Up, Becomes 4th Leading Cause Of Death
Image by @xb100 / Freepik

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, diabetes mellitus is the fourth leading cause of death among Filipinos in 2020, accounting for 37,300 deaths. The country has 4 million adults diagnosed with diabetes. 32% of those with type 2 diabetes are experiencing cardiovascular diseases, more than 87% are overweight or obese, and 85% have uncontrolled sugar levels.

“For the past three years, ischemic heart disease, cancer, and pneumonia have been listed as the top three causes of death in Filipinos, with diabetes following in fourth place,” explains Dr. Gilbert Vilela, Vice President of the Philippine Heart Association. “However, the news here is that the increase in ischemic heart disease is only 2.3%, while cancer went down by about 10%, and pneumonia by about 6%. Diabetes went up by 7.8%.”

The rise in numbers is definitely a cause for concern. However, seeking treatments requires fully understanding what diabetes mellitus is, and how it affects millions of Filipinos every day.

What is Diabetes?

The World Health Organization describes diabetes as a “chronic, metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose (or blood sugar), which leads over time to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.” There are two types: Type 1 Diabetes (your body attacks the cells in your pancreas, which makes them unable to make insulin), and Type 2 Diabetes (when the body becomes resistant to insulin).

The most common is type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs in adults. “Type 2 makes up for about 85% of the population of patients with diabetes. Coupled with type 2 diabetes, these patients have multiple risk factors. These are mostly adult patients. Some are smokers, some are hypertensive, some have cholesterol problems,” says Dr. Michael Villa, President of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism. “This is an area that needs to be addressed, and this is exactly why we are raising concerns with these types of patients.”

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How can I know if I have type 2 diabetes?

Early symptoms of type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Constant hunger
  • Frequent urination and excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth and itchy skin
  • Fatigue

If your blood sugar levels are high, you may also experience yeast infections, slow healing of cuts and sores, dark patches on your skin, and numbness.

Diabetes and cardiovascular disease

A 2015 study summarizes the close link between diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. It says that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the most prevalent cause of morbidity and mortality in diabetic patients.

“Cardiovascular (CV) risk factors such as obesity, hypertension and dyslipidemia are common in patients with diabetes mellitus (DM), placing them at increased risk for cardiac events. In addition, many studies have found biological mechanisms associated with DM that independently increase the risk of CVD in diabetic patients. Therefore, targeting CV risk factors in patients with DM is critical to minimize the long-term CV complications of the disease.”

Factors like smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol, having a sedentary lifestyle, and having a diet high in cholesterol can increase your risk for heart disease, which can cause high blood pressure, too much bad cholesterol, and high triglycerides.

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Treatment options

Managing type 2 diabetes can be done by incorporating healthy eating habits and discipline into your lifestyle. Here are a few examples on how you can better manage your health!

  • Healthy eating and regular exercise

    Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is much harder for Filipinos to make healthy changes to their lifestyle. According to Dr. Vilela, “The pandemic and subsequent lockdown have directly affected diabetes control—there is the lack of accessibility, the limitation of movement and lack of exercise, and an increase in anxiety and fear amongst patients and their families.”

    However, having consistent physical activity and a healthy diet are equally important in controlling your blood sugar levels. It also helps in managing your weight, which results in a decreased risk for obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

  • Medications

Novo Nordisk, a pioneer in diabetes research and innovative treatments for diabetic patients in the Philippines, introduced the once-weekly glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist.

“We’re at the forefront of innovating GLP-1 treatments, helping people with type 2 diabetes address cardiovascular risk and its other multiple risk factors,” says Cihan Serdar Kizilcik, Vice President and General Manager of Novo Nordisk Philippines.

The once-weekly GLP-1 receptor agonist is an FDA-approved innovation for the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

According to Novo Nordisk, it acts like human glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), as it increases insulin secretion and sugar metabolism.

“Semaglutide, a GLP-1 receptor agonist stimulates insulin (a hormone made by the pancreas which regulates the amount of sugar in the blood) and suppresses glucagon (a hormone that causes the liver to release sugar into the blood) release, while decreasing appetite and food intake,” says the company in a press release. “It also reduces cardiovascular risk by modifying the progression of atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries), as well as by reducing blood pressure, lipid levels and weight.”

It is a prescribed drug, distributed as a metered subcutaneous injection in a prefilled pen, and should not be taken without seeking medical consultation.

Before undergoing any type of medication or treatment, make sure to contact a healthcare professional!

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