Big increase in diabetes deaths

Paulina Tshabalala suffers from diabetes and hypertension. (File Photo/ Credit: Health-e)
Ma Thandi Radebe
Pic: Thom Pierce/Health-e

Diabetes is the number one killer of women and people living in the Western Cape.

This is according to StatsSA, which yesterday (28 Feb) released a report on the causes of death in 2015.

Tuberculosis remains the country’s biggest single killer, claiming 7,2% of all deaths followed by diabetes, which was responsible for 5,4% of deaths.

In 2013, diabetes was the country’s fifth biggest killer and health experts say that poor diet and obesity is behind its meteoric rise.

“Excessive calorie consumption and sedentary lifestyles are the main contributors to the development of diabetes,” according to endocrinologist Dr Sundeep Ruder, who said 7% of South Africans aged 21 to 79 (3.85 million people) have diabetes.


“Some people with a genetic predisposition to the disease are considered high risk, but it is largely preventable. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation,” added Ruder, who is a spokesperson for the Healthy Living Alliance.

Diabetes is part of the group of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – often called “lifestyle diseases” – which were responsible for over half (55%) of the 460 236 people who died in 2015.

Other NCDs include heart disease, strokes, cancer and hypertension.

“ Although tuberculosis has maintained its position as the number one leading underlying natural cause of death, the proportions over time have been declining, whilst proportions for diabetes mellitus, hypertensive diseases, other viral diseases and chronic lower respiratory diseases have been increasing,” according to StatsSA.

People most likely to die in 2015 were aged between 60 and 64, while children aged 5 to 14 had the lowest death rate.

Two-thirds of women over the age of 65 died from an NCD, while NCDs killed almost half (48%) of men in this age group.

“For both males and females six of the top ten leading causes of death were due to non-communicable disease, accounting for 27,7% for females and 32,5% among males,” according to StatsSA.

“An abundance of evidence links the intake of beverages high in sugar – like soft drinks and energy drinks – to a high risk of developing diabetes and obesity,” according to Ruder.

The StatsSA report is based on all death notification forms from the Home Affairs department’s civil registration system In 2015, the majority of the deaths (77,5%) were registered within the three days stipulated by the legislative framework. – Health-e News.


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