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Diabetes is increasingly taking hold in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East. According to Dr. Ala Alwan, assistant director general for noncommunicable diseases and mental health at the World Health Organization (WHO), the problem is already vast and is increasing at an alarming rate.
Lifestyle choices are a major factor. According to Dr. Alwab, lack of physical activity is part of the problem. Roughly 70 percent of Saudi women are not exercising or being active. Smoking is another contributing factor, as are poor food choices as fast food grows in popularity.
According to a diabetes awareness survey completed in 10 countries in the Middle East and North Africa last November by Novo Nordisk, diabetes is not viewed there as a serious disease. Of the 3000 people interviewed, 40 percent of those at risk for diabetes said that they considered the condition "benign." Thirty-seven percent had never been screened or had a blood sugar test.
Healthcare officials are working to make screening more accessible and to train more doctors and nurses to address the problem.