Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels are too high. Glucose comes from food and insulin is a hormone that is created in the body to help glucose get into cells to give them energy.
There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition where a person can still produce insulin, but their body does not process it well. Prediabetes is the condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes can cause several health complications including eye problems such as glaucoma or cataract, kidney disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), skin complications, and foot complications. Diabetes can even lead to a heart attack, stroke, or need to remove a limb. Proper management of diabetes and regular check-ups can prevent many of these complications.
Those with a family history of type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk of having the condition. Another possible cause is that the body’s own immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas instead of fighting harmful bacteria and viruses.
Those who have prediabetes are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although 80% of people with prediabetes don’t know that they have it. Risk factors for prediabetes include a body mass index (BMI) over 25, being over 45 years old, and having an immediate relative with type 2 diabetes. Those diagnosed with prediabetes can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes by following a diet and exercise routine and getting regular check-ups.
According to the most recent data from the International Diabetes Federation, about 8.8% of the world lives with diabetes as of 2019, about a 2.4% increase from 2010 (6.4%). This means that about 415 million people around the world are living with diabetes. This is expected to increase to 642 million by 2040.
Countries with the highest diabetes prevalence:
- Marshall Islands (30.5%)
- Kiribati (22.5%)
- Tuvalu (22.1%)
- Sudan (22.1%)
- Mauritius (22.0%)
- New Caledonia (21.8%)
- Pakistan (19.9%)
- French Polynesia (19.5%)
- Solomon Islands (19.0%)
- Guam (18.7%)
Unsurprisingly, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, and Tuvalu are all among the ten most obese countries in the world. Being overweight or obese are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. A majority of these countries are located in the Western Pacific. This is because of poor dietary choices and a lack of physical activity.
The Marshall Islands has a diabetes rate of 30.5%, the highest in the world. The obesity rate is the fourth-highest in the world of 52.9%. The majority of those diagnosed with diabetes in the Marshall Islands have type two. Inhabitants have become increasingly dependent on imported, processed foods that are high in sugar since local foods and imported fruits and vegetables tend to be the most expensive.
Kiribati has the second-highest diabetes rate in the world of 22.5%. Kiribati is the ninth-most obese country in the world with an obesity rate of 46.0%.
Tuvalu, the country with the third-highest rate of diabetes in the world of 22.1%, has an obesity rate of 51.6%. This is the fifth-highest obesity rate in the world. Sudan is tied with Tuvalu with a diabetes prevalence of 22.1% but with a much lower obesity rate of 8.6%.