Diabetes burnout a stark reality of diabetes in Malaysia

Pank Jit Sin
18 Nov 2020

Diabetes burnout, a state of emotional or physical exhaustion as a result of frustration and being overwhelmed by the burden of diabetes self-management, occurs in 96 percent of diabetes sufferers in Malaysia, a survey shows.

According to the survey done on 158 respondents, most want to be empowered over their diet. The survey by Abbott aimed to better understand the challenges faced by those living with diabetes and to arrive at ways to empower patients. Diabetes burnout has been shown to lead to poor adherence, reduced self-care and poor glucose control among persons with diabetes. More than 75 percent of survey respondents said that maintaining a healthy weight and following a healthy diet were their two main stressors. The respondents reported that they faced most problems in the following areas: 72 percent reported having problems abiding by a diet suitable for people with diabetes while 73 percent reported having problems keeping count of calories or carbohydrates daily.

Commenting on the topic, Associate Professor Dr Norlaila Mustafa, consultant physician and endocrinologist, Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said poor glucose control is a major problem among Malaysians living with diabetes. This is partly due to the fact that many lack knowledge on how dietary behaviour and slight changes in their eating plan can negatively impact diabetes management. She said: “Therefore, keeping blood glucose levels on target can prevent or delay the onset of complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and heart disease.”

Echoing Norlaila’s view, Dr Winnie Chee, Ph.D, said: “Stress can affect diabetes control, therefore managing the emotional and psychological state is as important as managing glucose readings. People with diabetes are often burdened by many aspects of self-care, particularly dietary choices. Knowing the right foods to eat that will not raise their blood sugar, is a formidable challenge for most individuals.” She added that diet control plays a key role in managing diabetes and delaying complications, hence a multidisciplinary healthcare team which includes a dietitian can assist people with diabetes learn how to eat well with less stress and better manage their diabetes. Chee is professor in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, International Medical University.

Additionally, the survey showed that respondents wanted to be more empowered over their diet, ideally with solutions that help reduce the stress of following a diabetes-specific diet. The two solutions respondents found to be most useful were convenient and affordable diabetes-friendly meals (88 percent) and diabetes-specific supplements to replace meals or snacks (91 percent). In such an instance, “diabetes-specific formulas are a simple and convenient solution to help those living with diabetes adjust their lifestyle," said Dr Nina Mazera Mohd Said, medical director, Abbott Nutrition Malaysia, adding that the company has over 3 decades of experience developing nutrition formulas for persons with diabetes.

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