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Puntos de vista - a personal Spain blog

Musings about Spain and Spanish life by Paul Whitelock, hispanophile of 40 years and now resident of Ronda in Andalucía .

Diabetes on the increase in Spain
Monday, November 22, 2021 @ 7:21 AM

Spain has the second worst record in Europe after Turkey

Diabetes is a massive health problem in Spain. The number of sufferers is increasing year on year and has reached unprecedentedly high levels. The number of diabetics in the country has increased by 42 per cent in the last two years, according to Atlas, an organisation which carries out a worldwide study of diabetes every two years. According to the International Diabetes Federation (FID) more than five million Spaniards are living with this scourge on a daily basis.

Having recently been diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic, Pablo de Ronda has taken a keen interest in the subject.


Facts and figures

The incidence rate of the disease in Spain is "worrying", according to Antonio Pérez, an endocrinologist and president of the Sociedad Espanola de Diabetes (SED), the Spanish Diabetes Society. 
The number of diabetics has grown by 42% in just two years, based on the data collected by Átlas. This is unprecedented. It trebles the speed of the spread of diabetes compared to the rest of the world.
The result of such a rapid increase means that Spain is the second country in Europe with the highest incidence rate of diabetics in the adult population, only behind Turkey. 
The Atlas report for 2021 estimates that one in seven Spaniards over the age of 19 suffers from this illness, about 5.1 million, a huge number, to which some 400,000 new patients are added each year.
The Spanish incidence rate, with 14.8% of the adult population suffering from diabetes, is enormous, compared to neighbouring countries, which share similar ills of urban and developed societies that become risk factors for developing the disease. 
The Spanish rate is five points higher than the world average, it is four points above the European average and Turkey only exceeds it by one point. 
The problem is so great that the IDF estimates that the healthcare costs associated with this illness in Spain amount to 13,430 million euros each year.
Antonio Pérez considers that the accelerated spread and the high incidence rate are due to the "lack of effective prevention strategies" on the part of the health and educational administrations, added to an increase in people who are sedentary, overweight and/or obese, as well as the proliferation of unhealthy eating.

This lack of resources means that 1.5 million Spaniards do not know that they suffer from diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, the subtype that 90% of patients suffer from, has a strong genetic predisposition and proliferates in aging societies, such as Spain, but unhealthy lifestyle habits are also clear risk factors, such as the lack of physical activity and diets rich in fats, sugars and ultra-processed products, which lead to obesity.

Proof of the importance of these socioeconomic factors is that 40% of diagnosed Spanish diabetics are obese and 80% are overweight. Specialists estimate that an excess of between 5 and 7 kilos maintained for several years doubles the chances of adults suffering from diabetes.

The lack of effective early detection programmes, coupled in the last year and a half with the abandonment of health controls and monitoring of almost any ailment that was not Covid-19-related, means that many Spaniards are not aware of their problem, as it is a silent illness, until it generates a cardiovascular lesion, one of the most common complications.

Adult diabetes, in which an early diagnosis and adequate medical follow-up can prevent, or at least delay, the onset of complications, is highly likely to result in serious damage, including death, if it is not treated or if the therapy is not applied with perseverance and rigour.

Neglected diabetes is the source of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, or leg amputations.

Patient organisations and medical societies report that in Spain there is a lack of resources and a thorough update of the national strategy against this disease, which results in low prevention and early detection, insufficient health controls and diabetes education of patients, and in unequal access to care and medication resulting in a “postcode lottery”.

14 November was World Diabetes Day. The president of the SED called for Spanish political and health leaders to move from words to deeds, to improve the lives of people with diabetes and to prevent the illness in those at high risk.


A personal perspective

As for me, I have to say that the treatment and advice I have received from my local GP (aptly named Milagros – miracles) and her practice nurse Paqui have been outstanding. The Seguridad Social here in the Serranía de Ronda is taking diabetes very seriously indeed.

My regime as outlined by these medical practitioners is threefold: exercise, diet and medication.

  • I am to walk for an hour twice a day, in the morning and in the evenings.
  • I am to cut out sugar, avoid fatty foods, reduce carbohydrate intake and eat smaller portions of a balanced diet. No alcohol or fizzy drinks. Stick to water (yawn!)
  • I take a diuretic and an anti-diabetes pill once a day and a blood sugar-reducing tablet three times a day after meals. My previously high blood pressure has normalized of its own accord, so I no longer take a pill for that.


Weight loss

I lost 6 kilos in about a month but cannot seem to shed any more. This is a shame, because my private health insurance, Sanitas, will reduce my premium if I get down to 91 kilos by the end of the year – only three more kilos to go in, what, five weeks or so?

Wish me luck!





Like 0


PablodeRonda said:
Monday, November 22, 2021 @ 10:07 AM

Hi, admin.
Something has gone wrong with the formatting of a chunk of text at the beginning of my article. I can't find a way to correct it. Can you help, please?

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