Local doctor Professor Mohammad Zubaid, professor of Medicine at Kuwait University and President of Kuwait Cardiac Society, is urging action on the rising ‘epidemic’ of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the country, as incidence of both continue to rise significantly.
Prevalence of hypertension is set to double by 2025, according to the World Health Organization, and Type 2 diabetes affects up to 23 percent of Kuwait’s population, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
As many as half of all diabetes sufferers are still undiagnosed, with the illness commonly caused by obesity – another major health problem in Kuwait. Around 23 percent of Kuwaitis are classed as overweight or obese, according to the WHO.
Although traditionally thought of as a disease affecting only blood sugar metabolism, diabetes is associated with much higher rates of heart disease and strokes – more than smoking and high cholesterol put together. Kuwait is also already seeing a rise in cases of hypertension, especially among a growing number of younger people (under 35), as a result of unhealthy lifestyles including poor diet and lack of exercise. However, because the disease is symptomless, many people are unaware they have high blood pressure and go undiagnosed.
“The incidence of hypertension is increasing in Kuwait, most alarmingly in young people. Most patients do not experience any symptoms and are frequently unaware that they even suffer from high blood pressure. It’s very important for the public to be aware of the contributing factors to high blood pressure and regularly take part in screenings in order to diagnose hypertension as early as possible,” said Professor Zubaid, who is also the head of Cardiology at Mubarak Alkabeer Hospital.
The cost implications of growing lifestyle diseases are also alarming. A recent report by Deloitte notes that the Middle East and Africa could be the fastest growing region for healthcare spending in the coming years, where spending is expected to rise by an average of 10 percent annually.
The increased healthcare demand is a result of the increase and spread of chronic diseases, which is attributed to an aging population, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, rising obesity levels, and improved diagnostics. The same Deloitte report references epidemics in diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in the Middle East, a warning that doctors in Kuwait echo locally.
“Type 2 diabetes and hypertension are both manageable with the right medication and the right lifestyle changes. More and more treatment options are becoming available to patients, and as healthcare professionals we urge patients and families to act quickly before a true epidemic of lifestyle diseases hits the country,” Professor Zubaid added.