Nearly a third of Emiratis are suffering from diabetes because of bad eating habits, lack of exercise and a radical change in the pre-oil lifestyle, a leading cardiologist in the country said on Wednesday.
Diabetes and heart diseases are among the key death causes in the second largest Arab economy and the cardiac problems are also widespread in the dominant expatriate community as a result of stress.
“Latest medical surveys showed nearly 28 per cent of the UAE nationals are suffering from diabetes…this is a very high rate,” said Dr Hussein Haidar, a consultant cardiologist at the Abu Dhabi-based Al Noor Hospital.
“The main reason for this is the bad eating habits, lack of exercises and the drastic change in their lifestyle compared with their life before the oil era……another key factor is lack of awareness of the importance of having healthy food to avert diabetes and heart diseases,” he told Emirates 24/7.
Haidar said such diseases were minimal in the UAE and other Gulf countries before oil was struck more than 70 years ago.
He said natives used to struggle to get their living, including going on fishing and pearling trips, hunting, tending to livestock and riding camels.
“Life has now changed as it has become very east…they now drive cars and most activities that have dominated their lives before the oil era have now stopped…their eating habits have also totally changed as many of them now have unhealthy food…all this is because of the sudden wealth.”
Haidar gave no figures for the whole UAE but figures by the Health Ministry showed almost a fifth of the country’s eight million people have diabetes, making the country among the 10 nations with the highest rate of the disease.
At the end of 2011, around 19.2 per cent of the UAE’s population had diabetes and the ratio could rise to 19.8 per cent in 2030 unless measures are taken to tackle the problem, said Dr Mahmoud Fikri, the Ministry’s assistant undersecretary for health policies.
“The UAE is now ranked among the 10 nations having the highest diabetes ratio,” he said at a recent diabetes seminar in Sharjah.
“Unless measures are taken to fight this problem, the rate of the disease is will likely increase to 19.8 per cent in 2030 from 19.2 per cent at the end of 2011.”
In a separate study, the Ministry of Health said cardiac and diabetes diseases are the main causes of deaths in the UAE. The report, quoting doctors in the country, blamed bad eating habits, stress and lack of exercise.