Press Release

Minister Wallace reminds people of the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles on World Diabetes Day

Ms Mary Wallace, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Health Promotion and Food Safety today (Friday, 14th November 2008) reminded people on World Diabetes Day of the importance of adopting healthy lifestyles.

Approximately one in 20 adults in Ireland has diabetes (141,000 adults). Half of these will die from a diabetes-related condition. Diabetes is the most common cause of blindness and amputations in the working population. Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent), which accounts for 90% of all cases diagnosed in Ireland, affects mainly middle aged and older people. However, its prevalence is increasing due to a number of factors, including the ageing population and lifestyle factors such as obesity and, by 2025, it is estimated that almost 8% of the population may be diabetic. Up to half of people who have diabetes are undiagnosed.

Current lifestyle patterns in Ireland are a major cause of concern as they play a significant part in the increase in the disease. The Minister said‘Prevention is key in halting the rise in incidence of type 2 diabetes. Not many people realise that almost 60% of the disease burden in Europe is accounted for by seven leading risk factors, factors which we can influence: high blood pressure, tobacco, alcohol, high blood cholesterol, overweight, low fruit and vegetable intake, and physical inactivity. Health and longevity are influenced by lifestyle and living and working conditions. It is the individual himself or herself or in the case of young children, their parents, who are ultimately responsible for the lifestyle choices which go a long way to determining health in later years. It is important to remember that the foundations of adult health are laid in early childhood.’

Overweight and obese individuals are at an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. As much as 58% of cases of type 2 diabetes are attributable to excess body fat. Yet of all chronic diseases, obesity is the most preventable. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has been described by the World Health Organisation as an epidemic. Ireland is no different from other countries in terms of obesity trends. Obesity is becoming one of the fastest growing health problems in Ireland. It is a complex condition that affects and threatens to overwhelm virtually all age and socio-economic groups. Almost two-thirds of Irish people are overweight or obese. As a result, half of the population is at an increased risk of developing diabetes and other associated chronic health conditions. The Minister concluded by reminding people of the importance of investing in themselves and their future health by making the right choices for healthy lives.