More than a billion people are expected to live with diabetes by 2050

Cases of diabetes are likely to skyrocket in the coming decades, according to new research published this week. The study estimates that more than one billion people worldwide will be living with this chronic disease by 2050, roughly double the number of cases seen today. Diabetes prevalence is expected to be particularly high in parts of Africa and the Middle East, but dozens of countries could see substantial increases.

In the simplest terms, diabetes is defined as having chronically high blood sugar levels. This usually happens due to a breakdown in our production or response to insulin, a hormone that helps move sugar from the bloodstream into our cells. People with type 1 diabetes, for example, have an overzealous immune system that attacks the cells responsible for making insulin. And people with type 2 diabetes develop resistance to the effects of insulin and may eventually stop producing it altogether.

Thanks to medications and better blood sugar monitoring, diabetes is no longer the death sentence it once was. But this can still lead to serious complications like nerve damage and chronic kidney disease, especially if they’re likely going unmanaged. It also often increases the risk of many other health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, and dementia. And according to the authors of a study published Thursday in the Lancet, the burden of diabetes will only increase from here.

The research comes from scientists at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), based at the University of Washington School of Medicine. To arrive at their predictions, the team used the latest data from the Global disease burden study, a long-running research project also run by IHME that attempts to track the prevalence and damage of many health conditions and diseases.

Based on GBD data, there were approximately 529 million people with diabetes worldwide in 2021. After adjusting for age, the current global prevalence was approximately 6.1%. But by 2050, 1.31 billion people will have some form of diabetes, according to the authors. The highest age-standardized prevalence rate for a large region is expected to be in the North Africa and the Middle East at 16.8%, but nearly half of the world’s more than 200 countries and territories will have rates above 10%.

“The rapid rate at which diabetes is developing is not only alarming, but also challenging for all healthcare systems around the world, especially considering that the disease also increases the risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke” , said lead author Liane Ong, lead researcher. scientist at IHME, in a statement released by the organization.

Over 95% of these cases are expected to be type 2 diabetes. And the most significant risk factor associated with type 2 was a high body mass index. But the authors note that many other important factors, including low levels of exercise, poor diet and a person’s genetics, can influence a person’s risk of developing diabetes and the potential harm or the death it can cause. Thus, preventing or managing cases of diabetes now and in the future will require widespread improvements in our environment and the availability of health care, according to the authors.

“Some people may be quick to focus on one or a few risk factors, but this approach fails to take into account the conditions people are born and live in that create disparities in the world,” the author said. study Lauryn Stafford, researcher at IHME. “These inequalities ultimately impact people’s access to testing and treatment and the availability of health services. This is precisely why we need a more complete picture of the impact of diabetes on populations at a granular level.

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