Diabetes - why you should include it in your health care planning

World Diabetes Day is held on 14 November every year and has become an internationally recognised event which raises awareness of the condition. It was initiated by the World Health Organisation and the International Diabetes Federation and is now an official United Nations Day. There are hundreds of campaigns and activities globally to celebrate World Diabetes Day and it is proving highly effective in communicating the message about the condition. The World Health Organisation says that 346 million people worldwide have diabetes of which more than 80% live in low and middle income countries and the numbers are growing. Indonesia and Japan, popular expatriate destinations, both have relatively high incidences, although in absolute terms, it is the world’s large population centres which dominate the league tables, China and India.

Diabetes is currently an incurable condition where there is too much glucose in the blood. It occurs because the body can’t use glucose properly owing either to a lack of hormone insulin or because the insulin available doesn’t work effectively. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood and adolescence. It is insulin dependent so sufferers require lifelong insulin injections. People without insulin have heightened blood glucose levels and this can lead to serious organ damage. Type 2 diabetes usually develops in adulthood. It is not insulin dependent. The primary cause is obesity, inactivity and unhealthy diets. This is the more common type of diabetes and represents some 90% of cases. Sufferers are likely to have high blood pressure and less insulin produced in the body.

Treatment could simply involve lifestyle changes and weight loss. Otherwise oral medication or insulin injections are advised. Another common type is gestational diabetes which sometimes occurs in pregnant women when the body is not producing enough insulin. Education is particularly important as diabetes can affect all aspects of life. In extreme cases, it can cause blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and it may even lead to limb amputation. Be aware of risks such as obesity, lack of exercise, and bad diet and look out for warning signs such as tiredness, weight loss, increased thirst, blurred vision and lack of concentration. Diabetes is often detected during a routine urine test when excess glucose is present. The sooner the blood sugar levels are brought under control, the better the long term prospects of preventing damage.

The primary goal of treatment therefore is to bring the raised blood sugar levels down to a normal range. A recent study on diabetes stated that the condition has the potential to overwhelm the health systems of many countries, especially in developing countries. For many expatriates working overseas, having an international health insurance policy in place which will offer insurance protection against the costs of treating long term illnesses such as diabetes is a wise decision. Long term health care costs, also known as chronic care costs, can mount up rapidly, but are not always covered in full by insurers.

One company which does offer protection in this area is April International UK. Debbie Purser, CEO, advises, “For expatriates living and working abroad, many will experience quite significant lifestyle changes which can catch them off guard. Particularly those moving to hot and humid countries where exercise becomes more difficult or those moving to countries where the local food tends to be rich and high in fats need to guard against long term weight gain and a deterioration in overall fitness levels, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Abroad, in a foreign country, many expatriates will spend more time at home, watching TV and on the web and this sedentary lifestyle can store up problems. For those affected by type 2 diabetes, though, the condition can often be reversed, but in all cases, having good quality medical insurance ad advice is essential.