Diabetes Around the World on the Rise?

Worldwide rates of diabetes among the 65-plus population are on the rise, and have increased dramatically in the past 40 years. The US, China, and India have the highest rates of diabetes around the world. Diabetes puts seniors at a much higher risk for chronic wounds — including life-threatening diabetic foot ulcers.

Diabetic foot ulcers can progress from an irritation on the bottom of the foot to a gangrenous limb. This would require amputation. Amputation, especially in developing countries is a result of diabetic foot ulcers. Wound experts can monitor the feet of diabetic patients for signs of a foot ulcer. Generally starting out as a red sore on the bottom of the foot. But seniors in developing countries don’t always have easy access to wound care experts, making diabetes an even bigger threat to their overall quality of life.

How Does Diabetes Affect the Developing World?

A rise in diabetes is costly for any nation’s healthcare system. Threatening to reverse progress in countries like India and China. In both countries, many seniors rely on family members for care, and don’t have access to expert wound care. Experts also estimate that both countries have high rates of undiagnosed cases, meaning that patients could be at risk for diabetic foot ulcers and not know it.

Patients in India are put further at risk for diabetic foot ulcers because of faulty footwear. However, one study found to be the cause of ulcers in one-fifth of patients.

Diabetes and Global Diets

The causes of diabetes in the U.S. are well known — fast food and diets high in sugar provide an obvious explanation. But Western eating habits have made their way to other countries, and an increase in diabetes is the unfortunate result. Even in Japan, with a global reputation for a healthy diet, has also seen a dramatic spike in diabetes in the past few decades. This is due in part to the aging population — the likelihood of developing diabetes increases with age. Along with the westernization of the Japanese diet.

In the Marshall Islands, a small group of islands near the Philippines, scientists have had a chance to study a dramatic dietary shift in a small population. Today, many locals subsist almost entirely on pre-packaged, imported food. As a result, over a quarter of the adult population suffers from diabetes.

It wasn’t always this way. In the past, the Marshallese diet consisted mostly of seafood and local produce, and unsurprisingly, diabetes was practically non-existent. Researchers believe the introduction of white rice into the local diet may have started the trend toward more carbohydrate-rich, processed foods.

Which Diet is best for Reducing the Risk of Diabetes?

What can we learn from countries with especially low rates of diabetes? Italy has one of the lowest rates of diabetes in Europe, which tracks with recent studies. Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet is the best for lowering the risk of diabetes and obesity. A diet rich in healthy fats, in foods like fish and olives, as well as plenty of fresh produce. Seniors in long-term care may not have easy access to Mediterranean cuisine, but keeping those rough guidelines in mind can help seniors in long-term care make healthier choices and keep their diabetes symptoms in check.

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