The World Health Organization warned Wednesday that the world is facing an “unrelenting march” of diabetes. The total number of adult diabetes patients has almost quadrupled to 422 million between 1980 and 2014. There were only about 108 million cases of diabetes in 1980. According to WHO’s latest Global Report on Diabetes, high blood sugar levels have been linked to at least 3.7 million deaths worldwide every year.

Number Of Diabetes Patients Quadruples To 422 Million: WHO

Most diabetes patients have Type-2

WHO officials said the number of diabetes patients will continue to rise unless “drastic action is taken.” Researchers led by Majid Ezzati of the Imperial College London used data from 4.4 million adults in different parts of the world to estimate the age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes in 200 countries. Most people living with diabetes have Type-2, which is associated with lifestyle factors and obesity.

The condition is often lifelong. It is one of the biggest causes of heart attacks, kidney failure, blindness, stroke, and lower limb amputation. Findings of the study were published in The Lancet journal ahead of the World Health Day on April 7. Majid said diabetes has become much more common in men than women. The numbers are rising rapidly in low and middle-income countries such as Indonesia, China, India, Pakistan, and Mexico.

Urgent efforts needed to change people’s habits

WHO director-general Margaret Chan called for urgent and concerted efforts to change “eating and physical activity habits.” Rising consumption of fattening foods and sugary drinks was an important factor, but physical inactivity was making things worse. WHO recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week for people in the age group 18-65. But most people don’t do even the minimum recommended amount of physical activity.

According to WHO figures, one in ten adults were obese, while one in four were overweight. Obesity is the primary risk factor for Type-2 diabetes, said Majid Ezzati. The WHO estimates that the global cost of diabetes now exceeds $827 billion per year. Between 1980 and 2014, the largest increase in the number of diabetes patients was observed in Pacific island nations, followed by the Middle-East.