The Jakarta Post
As the prevalence of diabetes continues to increase at an alarming rate, the government has called on people to adopt healthier lifestyles to reduce their risk of contracting the disease.
The results of the latest Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) report show that the prevalence of diabetes has increased from 6.9 percent of the population in 2013 to 8.5 percent in 2018 based on blood glucose tests at health facilities nationwide.
About 6.3 percent of sufferers are people aged 55 to 64. The survey also showed that the majority of diabetes sufferers are women, and that most live in urban areas.
The Health Ministry’s disease control and prevention director general, Anung Sugihantono, urged the public to adopt healthier lifestyles to reduce their risk of diabetes.
Although rice consumption is often blamed as a major cause of diabetes, Anung said that a person could not avoid diabetes simply by replacing rice with other sources of carbohydrate.
“Replacing rice with other carbohydrate sources such as corn, cassava, or potato will only slightly reduce the risk of diabetes. It would be better if someone changed their eating habits to become healthier and exercise regularly,” Anung told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
However, Anung also said that diabetes was caused by many factors, and that an unhealthy lifestyle could not be blamed as the sole cause.
“Diabetes occurs when there is an imbalance of insulin production in someone’s body due to a genetic condition, infection, or unhealthy lifestyle. In conclusion, there are many factors that cause diabetes,” Anung said.
Diabetes is a chronic disease where the body becomes incapable of using its insulin to break down glucose or fails to produce enough insulin, resulting in high blood sugar and causing other serious health problems such as vision loss, kidney disease and heart disease.
There are three types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 is caused by an autoimmune condition. The exact cause is unknown, although in the majority of cases it is considered to be genetic factors, while gestational diabetes often occurs among pregnant women and is only temporary.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common and is mostly caused by lifestyle factors, such as excessive body weight caused by overeating and lack of exercise. The condition sees the body start to resist insulin as the excessive amount of glucose forces the body to produce more insulin, causing the body to work twice as hard.
Even though diabetes is mostly experienced by adults aged 24 and above, the Riskesdas also showed that a small percentage of children also suffered from diabetes.
One diabetes survivor is 12-year-old Fulki Baharuddin Prihandoko who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was only 9. His parents started to notice that there was something off when Fulki wet his bed almost every night and lost his weight drastically.
What was more alarming was that his blood sugar levels reached 700 mg/dL at the time he was diagnosed, which is higher than even the average blood sugar level of adults. Fulki was only diagnosed with diabetes after his third visit to the pediatrician, after previous pediatricians failed to see that Fulki was showing the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes.
Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) chairman Aman Bhakti Pulungan said that 80 percent of diabetic children in Indonesia suffered from Type 1 diabetes.
“Unfortunately, a lot of pediatricians are still unaware about type 1 diabetes symptoms and mistake it as another disease,” Aman said.
The lack of awareness, Aman added, was very dangerous because it would prevent children from receiving the proper medical treatment.
Children who contract polio or coxsackievirus, as well as having vitamin D deficiencies, are at risk of suffering from type 1 diabetes. The symptoms include frequent urination, heavy thirst, weight loss and fatigue.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Nov. 12, 2018, with the title "Healthier lifestyle, awareness critical in reducing risk of diabetes".