Lazy lifestyle leading to rise in numbers with diabetes

A lazy lifestyle is leading to a spiral in people becoming blind as a result of diabetes, a leading scientist is warning.

Irish teenagers and those in their early 20s who are “couch potatoes and have diets rich in sugars, fats and alcohol” are being reported by Irish optometrists to have the sight of those aged in their 60s. Up to 90% of diabetes cases are caused by diet and reduced physical activity according to Dr Philip Cummins of Dublin City University, which is causing more of us to develop poor eyesight or even blindness at a younger age.

Figures from Diabetes Ireland, show that the total number of people living with diabetes in Ireland is estimated to be 225,840. According to a Healthy Ireland survey, 854,165 adults over 40 are at increased risk of developing or have Type Two diabetes.

As a result of the spiralling numbers of young people with poor eyesight, Drs Cummins and Niall Barron, along with colleagues in Belfast’s Queen’s University and the University of Utah are developing a new drug that will help the repair and reversal of diabetic damage to the retina. The research, which has already started, will take up to five years to complete.

“Diabetic retinopathy (DR), a widespread complication of diabetes and now the leading global cause of new blindness cases in working age adults. Being a couch potato and having a diet high in sugar and fats is actually leading to poor eyesight and in many cases blindness.

“As a result of the spiralling numbers of people with diabetes due to being couch potatoes, having diets rich in sugar, fats and alcohol, scientists and clinicians are now having to develop drugs which will counteract the health effects of such lifestyles, with poor sight and blindness being one of the worrying results.

“This disease is caused by chronically elevated blood glucose levels which can severely damage the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye,” explained Dr Cummins.

More alarmingly, results from the Healthy Ireland survey show that there are a further 304,382 in the 30 to 39 year age group that are overweight and not taking the weekly 150 minutes recommended physical activity.

Leading eye specialist Don Stack of Optical Rooms explained that the development in Ireland has been the recent National Diabetic Screening program is a welcome addition to help deal with this alarming problem in young people.

“This program is particularly effective for those already diagnosed with diabetes. Once registered patients are screened for diabetic changes in the eyes.

“The difficulty is the rising numbers of young diabetics and the timeline to diagnoses, initiation of relevant treatment, and lifestyle adjustment. Obesity in young adults is a real concern. As our working lives become more sedentary and IT lead, the western diet of highly processed carbohydrates, poses the greatest risk factor.”

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