In South Africa, its HIV/AIDS; but the commonest ailment in China is diabetes. According to the BBC, China faces a diabetes epidemic, what with almost one in 10 adults having the disease, while more cases remain undiagnosed.
Given China’s huge population, this means that there are some 90 million diabetics; more than anywhere else in this planet. Even the US, with a similar prevalence of 1 in 10 plays second fiddle in terms of numbers simply because of China’s sheer size.
This represents a major public health problem for the authorities in Beijing as diabetes is a major factor in illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Add to this the fact that this disease does not have many symptoms during the early stages and we have a potential gigantic health problem in the next few decades.
The reason for this upsurge in diabetes is the rapid economic development in China where a combination of urbanisation, lack of exercise, changing eating habits and higher stress have all resulted in obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Prosperity has resulted in the average Chinese going from a situation where he has not enough food and has to resort to manual labour to eke out a living, to a situation of having enough (or too much) food and doing less exercise.
As if not to make matters worse, diabetes is a disease which is difficult to diagnose in the early stages, largely because it is silent and wreaks serious damage before symptoms appear. It basically affects every blood vessel in the body and therefore will damage practically every organ in the body. Read more here.
Given the difficulty in diagnosing diabetes early, an extremely simple test to see whether you have diabetes is by measuring the amount of glucose in the blood. This is easily done by doing an instant finger-prick test at the pharmacy. If the result is suspicious, further blood tests will have to be done at the doctor’s office to confirm.
- Diagnosing Crucial Diabetes Signs (slideshare.net)
The Pill for diabetes, Avandia, had been the subject of several investigations with regards to its side-effects for many years. I had written about it a week or two ago Your Sugar or Your Heart. Its baffling though that the nation that consumes this medication the most fell short of a total ban.
The British Heart Foundation as well as the respected British Medical Journal(BMJ) have called for its ban and the European Union’s European Medical Agency have introduced an outright ban. This drug has been blamed by research studies as far back as 2007 to cause heart problems when taken by diabetic patients, but attempts to ban it have been painfully slow. While the FDA acknowledged that the drug led to a higher incidence of heart attacks since 2007, its advisory panel in July this year stopped short of banning it with a split decision.
Why is the FDA reluctant to impose a ban? One can speculate, but the FDA statement on the matter claimed that there wasn’t enough data to kill a drug which it had already approved for sale. And ordering further studies to boost the data would be unethical, if not criminal. Anyway, the FDA is not known for banning a drug quickly, requiring watertight evidence before doing so (remember Cylert and Fen-Phen?).
For the public, the choice is simple. Stop using Avandia and switch to the myriad of other diabetic medications which are available and much less controversial.
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