Sarawak still has the lowest number of diabetics in the country although cases are on the rise nationwide, said Emeritus Professor Dato’ Mustaffa Embong, organising committee chairman of the 9th Diabetes Asia 2010 Conferences & Workshop.
Statistics also indicated that urban residents are more prone to the disorder, he said.
In an exclusive interview with The Borneo Post yesterday, Professor Mustaffa described diabetes cases in the country as ‘bad’ and at an epidemic stage.
He said in the 1950’s and 60’s, diabetics comprised only one per cent of the country’s population.
“This has increased rapidly in the last ten years to 17 per cent at present and is still rising,” he said.
The sickness is not reversible and is contracted due to genetic factor or lifestyle.
He said one reason for the rise in diabetes cases is that people now live longer and through marriage they pass the genes to their children.
On the other hand, there are people who are not in the high risk group, such as those who are not fat, but contracted diabetes due to their lifestyle.
Professor Mustaffa also pointed out that another cause for concern is that more than 95 per cent of diabetes cases in Malaysia are Type II even in children.
“They are getting younger. Not so much due to genetic factor but they are fat and inactive,” he lamented.
Explaining, he said there are Type I and Type II diabetes.
“Type I often occurs in children and Type II in older group which is more strongly genetic than Type I. If parents have Type II, the children may be more likely to have the Type II diabetes as well,” added Prof Mustaffa who is also a permanent member of National Diabetes Institute (Nadi).
Type I diabetes is treated with insulin injection and for type II, oral medicine is used.
“We cannot cure diabetes. Once you have it, you have it for life. People claim that herbal medicine can cure. But it is not the case. Otherwise I would have been rich by now,” he said.
“The best is to prevent diabetes from worsening and to prevent complications. That is the purpose of treating people, to prevent them from getting worse and prevent complications. The worst scenario is you die early but if you treat yourself properly then you can live to a ripe old age.”
The most important thing is for diabetics to change their attitude and stop doing things detrimental to their health, he said. They must be very responsible to themselves and control their food intake, observe their weight control and regular exercise.
“You cannot be fat or obese or it would be difficult for the insulin to work. We emphasise exercise to lose weight. Medication helps to control diabetes but medicine alone is not enough.
If we don’t control our diet and be physically active, diabetes will worsen. Most of all, practise a healthy lifestyle not only against diabetes but also to keep other chronic diseases at bay,” advised Prof Mustaffa.