By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Nearly one in every 10 Mexicans suffers from diabetes type 2, and of those, more than 90 percent are overweight or obese.
The link between diabetes and obesity is well understood, and as the second-fattest nation on Earth (right behind the United States), Mexico is also among the countries with the highest per capita incidence of diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
But while the relationship between weight and diabetes is well-known, what is less understood by most Mexicans is the fact that diabetes is also closely linked to heart disease.
“A person with diabetes is two to four times more likely to suffer from a heart attack than a person who does not have diabetes,” said Marco Antonio Alcocer, president of the Mexican Society of Cardiologists, in a video conference on the subject organized by the Danish multinational pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk, which specializes in diabetes treatment.
“The simple fact of the matter is diabetes is a heart disease, and we, as doctors and as patients, need to start thinking about it in that way.”
Alcocer went on to say that uncontrolled diabetes not only can lead to blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure and amputations, but it can cut a person’s life expectancy by as much as 10 years, and over half the Mexicans who die from diabetes, die from heart failure.
Of the over 12 million Mexicans currently with diabetes, over half are unaware of the fact that they even have the condition, added Pedro Gutiérrez Fajardo, head of Mexico’s National Association of Cardiologists, who also spoke during the Novo Nordisk video conference.
And of those who do know they have the disease, less than 5 percent treat the cardiovascular aspects of it.
As a result, damages to the heart and circulatory system are usually not diagnosed until they are already very advanced and cannot be easily treated.
Diabetes type 2, also known as diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes, is a disorder characterized by high blood glucose and is almost always related to poor diet, lack of exercise and other unhealthy lifestyle choices, although some patients are genetically predisposed to the disease.
There is a strong correlation between cardiovascular disease and diabetes because, over time, high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control the heart.
People with diabetes are also more likely to have other conditions that raise the risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure (which can damage artery walls), high LDL cholesterol levels (which can form plaque on artery walls) and high triglycerides (which are believed to contribute to the hardening of arteries).
Diabetes type 2 is treatable, but even when glucose levels are under control, the disease can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, which is an inherited disease in which the pancreas does not produce sufficient insulin, a hormone required for the control of blood glucose levels leading to hyperglycemia, type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to effectively use the insulin the pancreas produces.
Consequently, the treatment of type 2 diabetes is much more complicated.
While type 1 diabetes can be controlled through the regular administration of insulin injections, type 2 requires strict dietary and physical controls such as regular aerobic exercise, the restriction of calories, a lowered consumption of simple carbohydrates and an increased consumption of complex carbohydrates and fiber.
Gutiérrez Fajardo said that less than 6 percent of Mexican patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes have the condition under control.
“There are effective and affordable treatments available, but if the patient does not follow his medication routine or if he or she is not adequately supervised, the chances are that the disease will be uncontrolled and health issues such as cardiovascular disease will progress,” he said.
Early detection and early treatment are key to controlling type 2 diabetes, Alcocer said.
“If patients are diagnosed and treated early, many of them can avoid even having to take medications,” he said.
“Simple changes in diet and lifestyle are often all that are needed at that stage.”
Unfortunately, Gutiérrez Fajardo said, most diabetes patients in Mexico ignore the early signs of the disease and do not seek medical care until the condition is far enough advanced to cause severe and permanent secondary problems.
Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness and amputations in Mexico, and it is also the number one cause of renal failure, the number one cause of work absenteeism, the number one cause of a reduction in family incomes and, if all that is not enough, the number one cause of death, he said.
A staggering one in four beds in the nation’s public health system today are occupied by patients with diabetes or accompanying diseases, and the cost nationwide for treating the disease is about $8 billion dollars a year, according to statistics provided by the National Social Service Institute (IMSS).
Alcocer said that, with the right treatment and medical supervision, nearly 90 percent of diabetes mellitus patients could live full, healthy lives.
As it stands, though, of every 100 pesos spent on diabetes in Mexico, a full 55 pesos goes for caring for secondary conditions that result from delayed treatment and only 45 pesos go for control of the disease itself.
“There is no cure for diabetes, but there are treatments,” Gutiérrez Alcocer pointed out.
“It is up to both the medical community and the patients to take a more holistic approach to treating diabetes, not only in the control of their glucose levels, but also for the effects the disease can have on their heart.”
…Sept. 28, 2020