Access to diabetes treatments is access to a better life

I have been busy these days so I’m sorry for being a bit behind on my posts. There is some IBD news that I will share with you but first I wanted to highlight this article that I saw on BI-ME.

Business Intelligence Middle East – – Despite high diabetes prevalence, critical treatments remain inaccessible in Gulf – News, analysis, reports.

Considering the ridiculous rates of diabetes in the Middle East, I felt that the topic of accessibility to proper treatments and medicines was one worth discussing. According to the article ‘there are 6.5 million residents of the GCC suffering with diabetes’. This is a huge number when you consider that there is no cure for the disease and that it is a very burdensome, chronic condition that these people will have to live with, monitor and manage every day of their life.

As new treatments are being developed, tested and put into use around the world, the governing powers whose responsibility it is to make these treatments accessible in this region, need to be prepared for the high demand of the increasingly self-educated diabetes sufferers looking for the most innovative treatment options. Doctors and their institutions also need to push for more education and adequate prescription processes in order to manage the situation. If the lives of 6.5 million people in the GCC are dictated by their diabetes, how accessible these treatments are will have a direct correlation to the growth of an increasingly dangerous gray market which is subject to exploitation of illegal counterfeits. Those living with diabetes will also be more prone to self medicating practices that could make a bad problem exponentially worse.

If you have a story or comment, share it. Debating the issue will likely point to potential solutions.


Celebrities with Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that can affect anyone. Whether you are born with Type 1 or have acquired Type 2, the truth is that people from all across the planet – despite wealth, race, age, sex or geographic location – have the disease. One way to really raise awareness of how diabetes can touch us all is to take a look at celebrities and famous people who have the disease. By realizing that even the most successful and the most popular people on the planet can live with the disease, people can be inspired. Diabetes does not have to slow them down.

There are some really great sites out there, like, which have compiled lists of famous people, past and present, with diabetes. Some examples include:

Halle Berry – Actress (Monster’s Ball, X-Men, Die Another Day)

James Brown – ‘The Godfather of Soul’

Johnny Cash – ‘The Man in Black’

Dick Clark – Entertainer, television producer

Miles Davis – Jazz Musician

Aretha Franklin – ‘The Queen of Soul’

Ernest Hemingway – Author (For Whom the Bell Tolls; A Farewell to Arms; The Sun Also Rises)

Rick James – Singer (“Super Freak” Funk Legend)

Nick Jonas – The Jonas Brothers Larry King – Talk show host

Jerry Lewis – Comedian

Anne Rice – Author (Interview With a Vampire)

H. G. Wells – Author (War of the Worlds; The Time Machine; The Invisible Man) founded the British Diabetic Association

Check out dLife’s list for a lot more names.

What is seriously lacking, however, is a list of celebrities from the Arab world, celebrities that people from the Middle East can connect with and can be inspired by. I can only find a few:

President Hafez al-Assad– President Syria

King Fahd – King of Saudi Arabia

Anwar Sadat – President of Egypt

Gamal Abdel-Nasser – Former Leader of Egypt


So if you can think of any others, singers, artists, movie stars from the Middle East, I will gladly add them to the list.

New Years: a resolution

With the New Year approaching, I think we should all take a moment to consider how we might resolve to improve our health. There are many steps we can take to lead healthier lifestyles, and it is especially easy to make changes in our lives that will help to prevent or manage diabetes. I’m compiling a list of New Years resolutions. Feel free to help me out by suggesting your own.

1) Get outside! – Go for a walk, hike, play a sport, go swimming, do some gardening, go to a park, take the stairs, just be more active.
2) Eat better! – Stop eating starchy foods, junk food and foods with high fat content. Eat more vegitables, fibre, fish, fruits and whole grains. Make a habit of cooking at home.
3) Exercise! – In addition to being more active, participate in regular physical exercise whether that means going to the gym, running, playing a sport, cycling or beach volleyball.
4) Drink more water! – Put down the soda, drink water.
5) Laugh! – See my previous post about humour and the positive health benefits. Having fun and laughing shouldn’t be something we need to resolve to do… a lot of people simply don’t laugh enough.
6) Sleep better – Notice how I didn’t say ‘sleep more’, that’s because it is more important to have a consistent sleep routine with few nightly interruptions.
7) Quit smoking – Smoking is bad in so many ways but it increases the risk of diabetes and in turn the risk of heart attack and stroke.
8) Relax – Take some time for yourself and enjoy life. Stress raises blood pressure and can have serious negative affects on a person’s health.

These are going to be my resolutions this year. What healthy life changes are you making for your New Year’s resolution?

The serious side of humour

Laughter, they say, is the best medicine… I’m starting to think that there is a lot of truth to this popular statement. Researchers for years have been lauding the benefits of humour and its healing abilities, both physical and psychological. Laughter, studies have shown, lowers your blood pressure and helps your heart beat more smoothly. It relieves pain and reduces inflammation. It helps your immune system fight germs but leave your healthy tissue alone. Not to mention it brightens your mood and the moods of everyone in ear shot.  For people living with diabetes, laughter has a lot of positive benefits.

What’s funny about having diabetes? While diabetes is a serious condition, psychologists will tell you that humour is a great way to put it all into perspective and relieve stress related to the disease. In addition to that, studies show that laughing lowers your levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol increases insulin resistance, while adrenaline tells your liver to pump more glucose into your blood. This is how laughter helps lower blood glucose and keep it down for quite a while.  Theresa Garnero, a healthcare worker and cartoonist described the benefits of humour on

  • Enhances communication – A little humor helps to break down awkward moments.
  • Allows for expression of anger – Language was invented in order for people to communicate, whereas humor was invented in order to complain. Dealing with a chronic disease can trigger anger and humor is a wonderful way to help process the emotions.
  • Benefits health –  Laughing increases endorphins, decreases blood pressure, decreases pain, and decreases anxiety.
  • Reduces stress – Having diabetes is stressful and humor can help to relieve this burden.
  • Promotes learning – Turn the “ha, ha” into an “aha” moment. The laugh-learn connection is well documented in the literature.
  • Lowers blood glucose (sugar) – A research study from Japan showed that those who watched a brief comedy show after eating had lower glucose values that those who did not see the program.

Researchers are now saying laughter can bring balance to all the components of the immune system, which helps us fight off diseases. Laughter reduces levels of certain stress hormones. In doing this, it provides a safety valve that shuts off the flow of stress hormones and the fight-or-flight compounds that swing into action in our bodies when we experience stress, anger or hostility. These stress hormones suppress the immune system and raise blood pressure. When we are laughing, natural killer cells that destroy tumours and viruses increase, as do disease-fighting proteins and cells that help in immune response.So get laughing!! One great site I found has been LOL Diabetes, a blog where users can post funny stories, pics and comments to help those diagnosed with diabetes cope with the difficulties of living with the disease and to boost the body’s ability to stabilize blood sugars and reduce cardiovascular complications often associated with diabetes. Plus it’s fun!

Consuming your weight in sugar

Get this! The December issue of Medical Times Middle East reported that the recent FDI Annual World Dental Congress, held in Dubai revealed statistics comparing sugar consumption patterns worldwide. At 50kg per person per year, the UAE consumes more than double the average of developed countries. In developing nations, individuals consume less than 5kg of sugar a year.

50kg!!!! That’s 50 bags of sugar a year. No wonder there is such a problem with type 2 diabetes in the UAE. Made me think about how much sugar is in the things we eat….

These numbers are alarming!

12 oz. Juice Grams of Sugar
Apple 41
Grape 54
Grapefruit 27
Orange 38
Tomato 8
Source: esha Food Processor
Food Serving Size Grams of Sugars
Apple (with peel) 1, large 25.44
apple bran muffin (McDonald’s) 1 21
Applesauce, sweetened 1 cup 47.66
Apricots 1 3.05
Banana 1, medium 21.30
Blueberries 1/2 cup 8.27
Butterfinger candy 2.16 oz. 30
chocolate cake with icing 1 piece 31
chocolate chips 12 cup 43
Chocolate drink (Ensure) 8 oz. 22
chocolate milk 8 oz. 20
Coca-Cola 12 oz. can 39
diet drink (Ultra Slim-Fast) 12 oz. 36
Dried apricots 1/2 cup 33.44
frozen yogurt, soft serve 1 cup 32
fruit leather 1 roll 9
Grapes 1 cup 27.52
gum 1 stick 2
Ice cream 8 oz. (1/2 pint) 45
Ice cream Blizzard 1 88
Instant Breakfast 1 package 28
Jell-O pudding snack 1 23
Jell-O snack 1 18
Kool-Aid 12 oz. 38
M&M’s 15 oz. package 82
maple syrup 3 oz. 30
McD’s chocolate shake 16 oz. 58
Pear 1, medium 17.50
Raisins 1 box (1.5 oz.) 32.29
Raspberries 1/2 cup 5.84
Strawberries 1/2 cup 4.06
white sugar 2 packets 16
Source: esha Food Processor. Impact score by DesMaisons

Diabetes in the Middle East

Prevalence MapPrevalence  

Here are some really interesting figures and a map released this year by the International Diabetes Federation that show the prevelance of diabetes around the world and project what it will be in 2025. Notice how the Middle East and more specifically, Gulf countries are affected. Why do you think diabetes is affecting the region so much?

What makes you aware?

The Burj Al Arab turned blue for diabetesThe Burj Al Arab turned blue for diabetesThe Burj Al Arab turned blue for diabetes

Recently in the UAE there have been a number of diabetes awareness initiatives, mostly launching around World Diabetes Day on November 14. Many landmarks, such as the Burj Al Arab, have agreed to light up in blue to mark the occasion and to grab people’s attention. Other initiatives include Ibn Battuta Mall’s awareness month, where shoppers can stop by the diabetes booth and get a quick blood sugar test. Or there is the recent walk-a-thon in Abu Dhabi that was organized by the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, where thousands turned up to walk in support of those living with diabetes.

 While all of these initiatives help to turn people’s thoughts towards the disease and it’s impact on our family, friends and society as a whole, I wonder how much it is actually affecting people to make positive lifestyle changes. Often, I find these sorts of awareness campaigns to be flashes in the pan. By that I mean everyone tunes in, jumps on the band wagon, makes a little noise and then goes back to their normal routines. Very few people actively discuss the issues and how it affects them or sits and thinks about what diabetes is and does to the body. They simply drive by a blue building while eating a cheeseburger and think, ‘that’s for diabetes.’ But do they know what diabetes is? How it slowly starves your body? That once you get diabetes it will be with you forever? That nearly one out of every two of their friends either has it or will have it in 10 years? I doubt it. Not to say it isn’t great to support the cause and help spread awareness in any way possible, but people need to be engaged on a personal level, educated about facts, and to actively talk about it with family, friends and work colleagues.

That’s why I feel so strongly about the Inspired by Diabetes campaign. It is very different. It is more of a grassroots initiative that forces people to think about how their lives are affected by the disease. It gets kids asking questions to parents and teachers. It lets people express their feelings about the disease in a creative, personal way which can then be used to educate others.

So what would help make you aware?