Marked on November 14th of every year, World Diabetes Day is dedicated to building awareness on the prevention and management of the progressive disease. With lesser-known aspects of type 2 diabetes (T2D) often going under the radar, it is important to understand why adopting a holistic approach can be of substantial benefit to one’s overall health and quality of life.

Prevalence of T2D in the Middle East and North Africa

According to the International Diabetes Federation’s most recent study published in 2021, the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) currently represents the highest proportion of people living with T2D in comparison to other regions across the globe. Today, around 73 million adults are living with diabetes across the region, and this number is projected to increase to 136 million by 2045.

There is a mounting need to have an open dialogue around the importance of preventing T2D. Furthermore, building awareness on how best to manage T2D through a holistic approach that considers all the body’s systems at once is critical to improved health outcomes and an enhanced quality of life.

Type 2 diabetes and interconnectivity of the cardiovascular, renal and metabolic systems

T2D occurs when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces to regulate blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is therefore a common effect of uncontrolled diabetes.

Patients with T2D are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and even kidney disease. This is because the cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic systems are highly interconnected. Diseases affecting one of these systems often have negative effects on the others. Over time, high blood sugar from T2D can cause microvascular damage, ultimately impairing the ability of kidneys to function normally. Kidney dysfunction can in turn have a significant impact on cardiovascular health.

On a more positive note, this interconnectivity also means that managing diabetes can help reduce the risk of both heart- and kidney-related diseases. T2D needs to be managed through a multidisciplinary, holistic approach that combines different types of medical expertise so that the risk of complications can be reduced, and patients’ overall health improved.

Holistic management of T2D is paramount

Today’s holistic approach to treating T2D involves shifting away from traditional mindsets that required a single specialist to having multiple specialists from diverse disciplines collaborate on treatment plans. When specialists such as endocrinologists, diabetologists, cardiologists, internists, and nephrologists work together to treat T2D patients, they are able to consider the body as a whole and address its intricately connected systems more effectively.

Patients should prioritise healthy eating, commit to a regular exercise routine, maintain a healthy weight, and abstain from smoking. It is also important that they fully abide by their treatment plans for better health outcomes, including taking medication prescribed by their doctors. Today, thanks to innovative advances in the cardio-renal-metabolic field, novel treatments for T2D are available and are considered as crucial additions to the condition’s toolbox.

Finally, it is worth bearing in mind how rewarding it can be for people living with T2D to truly embrace a healthy lifestyle; one that is strictly regimented by specialist doctors but that is still balanced and enjoyable. Opting to view one’s health from a holistic standpoint helps patients integrate solutions that can boost not just their physical health but their mental health as well. Making sure to consult a doctor is a critical first step towards managing T2D.