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Here's a Term You Might Not Be Too Familiar With: Prediabetes

Let us dive into a topic that affects more people than you might think – Type 2 diabetes mellitus and prediabetes. Now, the words "Type 2 diabetes" and "prediabetes" might sound a bit serious and, well, they are. But do not worry; we are going to break it down in an easy way.  

So, let us first talk about Type 2 diabetes, a buzzing topic in the health scene. Picture it like that uninvited guest crashing the global party, affecting one in 11 adults aged between 20 and 79 years all over the world. The prevalence of this disease has been rapidly increasing, especially in developing countries, which is a matter of concern. Diabetes is a severe health condition that can lead to various complications, including blindness, amputations, heart attacks, and nerve damage. Yikes, right?! 

But hold on to your hats, because the situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is causing health concerns. The UAE has one of the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes globally, which is 16.4% in 2021. Unfortunately, the number of cases is increasing at a faster pace than neighboring countries. And guess what? The statistics are alarming as recent data shows that a lot of people with Type 2 diabetes in the UAE remain undiagnosed.  

Now, here's a term you might not be too familiar with – prediabetes. It is a condition that affects three times as many people as diabetes. Imagine this: your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. Prediabetes is basically a gentle nudge, a heads-up that diabetes might be knocking on your door. The catch? This condition usually has no symptoms and can be easily overlooked. As a result, most people with prediabetes are unaware of their condition. Are you one of them?  

Don't worry! The University of Sharjah has launched a program to screen for prediabetes in several community pharmacies in Ras Al-Khaimah, Dubai, Sharjah, and Ajman. With a simple fingerpick blood test and a friendly chat with a pharmacist, you can find out if your blood sugar levels are too high and potentially putting your health at risk. And if you find yourself in the prediabetes club, here is the good news: the journey does not end there. With lifestyle changes, you can often reverse prediabetes and prevent diabetes from developing altogether. This realization leads us to the second component of the program: a free diabetes prevention intervention offered by the University of Sharjah to allow people with prediabetes to take control of their health. Researchers from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Sharjah have collaborated with local diabetes educators and top international researchers to provide a free diabetes prevention intervention. This intervention is designed to help people overcome prediabetes. So, get ready for some virtual high-fives. This new and novel diabetes detection and prevention program has been possible thanks to funding received from the University of Sharjah and the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.  

People over 30 years old, who speak Arabic or English, and who did not have a prior diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes were invited to do a simple fingerpick point-of-care blood test to diagnose for prediabetes in one of the participating pharmacies. At each pharmacy, a trained pharmacist would take participants' weight, height, and waist circumference measurements. After that, they would measure your blood sugar levels using a testing device. It takes about 5 minutes for the device to give the blood sugar measurement.  

Our new diabetes prevention program includes personalized online sessions with diabetes educators who have got your back. They will tailor each session to fit your lifestyle, dropping knowledge bombs and dishing out advice to help you make the necessary changes for a healthier you. We are talking goals for weight loss, physical activity, and dietary tweaks – all the good stuff to keep diabetes at bay. By taking advantage of this initiative, you gain insights into managing prediabetes and practical skills to make sustainable lifestyle changes. It is a proactive step towards preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes, putting you in control of your health journey. 

So far, we have screened 675 people in the UAE. Of the screened individuals, 181 (26.8%) people had prediabetes and 80 (11.9%) had diabetes. In Ras al Khaimah, data collected from 102 participants showed that 41% have close family members with diabetes, 55% had already been screened for diabetes, and around 40% would be willing to do the screening. 88% of the participants consider diabetes a serious disease that needs prevention, while 30% believe they will have diabetes at some point in their lives. To find out more about our results, please refer to our policy paper. 

Quick reality check: dealing with diabetes is no walk in the park. It requires constant attention, lifestyle changes, and a hawk-eyed vigilance for potential complications. But hey, this intervention program is like a health wake-up call. Take action early, and you are paving the way for a healthier and more resilient future.  

So, are you ready to show prediabetes the exit door? We have your back – it is time to take control of your health journey, one step at a time. Your future self will thank you!