If you’ve been reading the news lately, you’ve undoubtedly heard about China’s growing problem with diabetes. According to Diabetes UK, 1 in 10 adults in China are estimated to have the disease, affecting 11.6% of the population and making it the highest concentration of people with diabetes in the world. It’s bypassed the numbers in the United States and India, and is quickly becoming one of (if not the) biggest health problems in the country.
So why is that number so high and what’s behind the steep increase in diabetes cases? Let’s take a look.
A Change in Lifestyle
As most people know, Type 2 diabetes is largely a result of diet and lifestyle, and the changes that China has seen from a transformation to a more industrialized workforce has drastically altered the way many Chinese people live. From a change in activity levels due to more people driving and working jobs that are stationary, to a switch in the types of food people eat (with many Western fast food chains making their way into China), lifestyle changes are making a big impact on China’s overall health.
Even worse is that the 11.6% counted doesn’t include those who have T2D, but haven’t been diagnosed, as well as a large and growing segment of the population who are at risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes. The latest study on diabetes in China, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that nearly half of all Chinese adults had blood glucose levels high enough to be a high risk factor for developing diabetes.
Possibly the most surprising fact from the study, though, was that the participants’ body index was still considered within the normal range, meaning that Type 2 diabetes is affecting Asians at lower body mass indexes, which could make it harder to identify warning signs early on.
Since a disproportionate amount of people who are at risk for Type 2 diabetes in China are young – between the ages of 18 and 29 – it’ll take a strong focus on diabetes prevention to start creating a healthier future with less diabetes-related complications for people with T2D. That means making healthier food choices and incorporating more activity and exercise into daily routines to ward off serious complications like stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure.
Luckily, Type 2 diabetes is manageable with the right amount of oversight and attention to one’s health and nutritional decisions. With more information and education on diabetes prevention, and effective management of T2D, we can all work towards minimizing the effects of this disease.