'Silent pandemic' rages on, claiming more lives, weighing down healthcare systems

Published on May 3 2021

DUBAI: Diabetes kills at least three times more people each year compared to COVID. Another grim fact: Among the reported COVID deaths, at least 40% were diabetics. The disease is usually recorded as a COVID-19 "comorbidity". So this is a really bad time to be a diabetic. But first, we need to understand what causes diabetes, and its knock-on effects on the body, and on society. 


The numbers are staggering: Every eight seconds, someone dies of diabetes somewhere in the world. Diabetes killed 4.2 million people in 2019, at least thrice more than deaths from COVID. 

How I turned my life around to manage diabetes 


By Samihah Zaman, Staff Reporter 


Abu Dhabi: Delilah Ruby Dsouza had always had a strong sweet tooth, and loved to indulge in sodas and desserts. Yet, when the 49-year-old banker from India was diagnosed with diabetes, she immediately turned her life around to manage the chronic disease. 


“I had first started feeling fatigued, and dropped six kilograms in just 20 days. My friends warned me that it could be diabetes, but when the doctor confirmed it, I was very distraught. I knew the journey would not be easy, and it wasn’t,” Dsouza told Gulf News. 


“But my doctor was very supportive. He kept in touch with me throughout the day, and although it has been just about two weeks, I believe I have been able to take the first steps towards living healthy,” she added. 


Dsouza made the switch right away. She did not wait after receiving her diagnosis. This included measuring her blood glucose three times a day, cutting down on carbs and maintaining a record of her daily activities. 


Lifestyle change 


“I woke up the next morning, and decided I was going to do everything I could. I measured my blood glucose after I woke up in the morning, then again two hours after lunch and again before dinner. I also cut down on carbs, switched all the white bread and rice to brown, and eliminated [added] sugar from my diet,” she explained. 


The switch was certainly challenging. 


“I’m the kind of person who would skip meals, but not dessert. And I love quite a bit of sugar in my tea and coffee. But I have to say that I feel lighter and healthier already,” Dsouza said. She also started going for half-hour walks, and incorporating a workout into her daily routine. 


To ensure she didn’t waver from her resolve, Dsouza also cut back on her social engagements for a week. “I didn’t want to feel like eating after I saw other people having things that are bad for me, so I just stayed home for a bit. I was also fortunate, because my housemate made the switch with me, and this made it easier for me to follow through,” Dsouza said. 


She advised other diabetics to follow their physician’s advice diligently. “I wait till it’s a do-or-die situation, but I also believe that with the help of my doctor and my friends, I’ve got this,” Dsouza added. 




• Measuring HbAlc (glycated haemoglobin) gives doctors a good idea of the concentration of glucose in the blood for three months. 


• HbAlc levels in non-diabetics is between 5 to 5.5. 


• In pre diabetics it is 5.5-6.5. Anything above that is defined as diabetes. 


• In confirmed diabetics, an HbAlc reading below 7 indicates good blood glucose control. 


Doctor’s advice 

Doctors say that early diagnosis is possible is relatively inexpensive: via testing of blood sugar. A gloucometer costs between Dh65 and Dh105. It works by