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Know the Truth about Diabetes – Nearly 90 per cent of all diabetes cases are of Type 2, largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity.
“Diabetes rarely makes headlines, and yet it will be the world’s seventh largest killer by 2030 unless intense and focused efforts are made by governments, communities and individuals,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Director for South- East Asia, said ahead of World Health Day on April 7.
World Health Day this year focuses on diabetes and calls for scaling up efforts to prevent, care for and detect the disease to arrest the global epidemic which is hitting the low and middle income countries the most.
Khetrapal said, “Diabetes is of particular concern in the Asian region. More than one out of every four of the 3.7 million diabetes-related deaths globally occur in the Asian region. Almost half of the 96 million people suffering the disease don’t know they have it. If diabetes prevalence continues to rise, the personal, social and economic consequences will deepen.”
Nearly 90 per cent of all diabetes cases are of Type 2, largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. It is both preventable and treatable if detected early. If not properly managed the disease causes serious damage to every major organ in the body, resulting in heart attacks, strokes, blindness and nerve damage, she added.
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What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is vital to your health because it’s an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It’s also your brain’s main source of fuel.
If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ. Too much glucose can lead to serious health problems.
Chronic diabetes conditions include type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Potentially reversible diabetes conditions include prediabetes — when your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes — and gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy but may resolve after the baby is delivered.
What are the Symptoms of Diabetes?
Diabetes symptoms vary depending on how much your blood sugar is elevated. Some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms tend to come on quickly and be more severe.
Some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Presence of ketones in the urine (ketones are a byproduct of the breakdown of muscle and fat that happens when there’s not enough available insulin)
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
Although type 1 diabetes can develop at any age, it typically appears during childhood or adolescence. Type 2 diabetes, the more common type, can develop at any age, though it’s more common in people older than 40.
What Causes Diabetes?
Type 1 Diabetes : – The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. What is known is that your immune system — which normally fights harmful bacteria or viruses — attacks and destroys your insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leaves you with little or no insulin. Instead of being transported into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.
Type 1 is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, though exactly what many of those factors are is still unclear.
Type 2 Diabetes : – In prediabetes — which can lead to type 2 diabetes — and in type 2 diabetes, your cells become resistant to the action of insulin, and your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Instead of moving into your cells where it’s needed for energy, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.
Exactly why this happens is uncertain, although it’s believed that genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight is strongly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, but not everyone with type 2 is overweight.
What are the Risk Factors?
Risk factors for diabetes depend on the type of diabetes.
Risk factors for type 1 diabetes :
Although the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, factors that may signal an increased risk include:
- Family history – Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 1 diabetes.
- Environmental factors – Circumstances such as exposure to a viral illness likely play some role in type 1 diabetes.
- The presence of damaging immune system cells (autoantibodies) – Sometimes family members of people with type 1 diabetes are tested for the presence of diabetes autoantibodies. If you have these autoantibodies, you have an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. But not everyone who has these autoantibodies develops diabetes.
- Dietary factors – These include low vitamin D consumption, early exposure to cow’s milk or cow’s milk formula, and exposure to cereals before 4 months of age. None of these factors has been shown to directly cause type 1 diabetes.
Risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes :
Researchers don’t fully understand why some people develop prediabetes and type 2 diabetes and others don’t. It’s clear that certain factors increase the risk, however, including:
- Weight – The more fatty tissue you have, the more resistant your cells become to insulin.
- Inactivity – The less active you are, the greater your risk. Physical activity helps you control your weight, uses up glucose as energy and makes your cells more sensitive to insulin.
- Family history – Your risk increases if a parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
- Race – Although it’s unclear why, people of certain races — including blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans — are at higher risk.
- Age – Your risk increases as you get older. This may be because you tend to exercise less, lose muscle mass and gain weight as you age. But type 2 diabetes is also increasing dramatically among children, adolescents and younger adults.
- High blood pressure – Having blood pressure over 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels – If you have low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol, your risk of type 2 diabetes is higher. Triglycerides are another type of fat carried in the blood. People with high levels of triglycerides have an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
What are the Complications of Diabetes?
Long-term complications of diabetes develop gradually. The longer you have diabetes — and the less controlled your blood sugar — the higher the risk of complications. Eventually, diabetes complications may be disabling or even life-threatening. Possible complications include:
Cardiovascular disease – Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke and narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis). If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have heart disease or stroke.
Nerve damage (neuropathy) – Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in your legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Left untreated, you could lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves related to digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, it may lead to erectile dysfunction.
Kidney damage (nephropathy) – The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters (glomeruli) that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Eye damage (retinopathy) – Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Foot damage – Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can develop serious infections, which often heal poorly. These infections may ultimately require toe, foot or leg amputation.
Skin conditions – Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.
Hearing impairment – Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.
Alzheimer’s disease – Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The poorer your blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be.
How to Live with Diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious disease. Following your diabetes treatment plan takes round-the-clock commitment. Careful management of diabetes can reduce your risk of serious — even life-threatening — complications.
Choose healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight – Losing just 7 percent of your body weight if you’re overweight can make a significant difference in your blood sugar control. A healthy diet is one with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (a seed, pod, or other edible part of a leguminous plant, used as food) with a limited amount of saturated fat.
Make physical activity part of your daily routine – Regular exercise can help prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and it can help those who already have diabetes to maintain better blood sugar control. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise — such as brisk walking — most days of the week is recommended. A combination of exercises — aerobic exercises, such as walking or dancing on most days, combined with resistance training, such as weightlifting or yoga twice a week — often helps control blood sugar more effectively than does either type of exercise alone.
Quit Smoking – Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications. Smokers who have diabetes are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than are nonsmokers who have diabetes.
If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly – Alcohol can cause either high or low blood sugar, depending on how much you drink and if you eat at the same time. If you choose to drink, do so only in moderation — and always with food.
Take stress seriously – The hormones your body may produce in response to prolonged stress may prevent insulin from working properly, which will raise your blood sugar and stress you even more. Set limits for yourself and prioritize your tasks. Learn relaxation techniques. And get plenty of sleep.
Take care of your teeth – Diabetes may leave you prone to more-serious gum infections. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. And if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, schedule regular dental exams. Consult your dentist right away if your gums bleed or look red or swollen.
Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control – Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Pay attention to your feet – Wash your feet daily in lukewarm water. Dry them gently, especially between the toes. Moisturize with lotion, but not between the toes. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, sores, redness or swelling.
Keep your vaccinations up to date – High blood sugar can weaken your immune system. The most recent CDC guidelines advise hepatitis B vaccination as soon as possible after diagnosis with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Schedule a yearly physical and regular eye exams – Your regular diabetes checkups aren’t meant to replace yearly physicals or routine eye exams. During the physical, your doctor will look for any diabetes-related complications and screen for other medical problems. Your eye care specialist will check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.
How can you reduce the risk of getting Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented. However, the same healthy lifestyle choices that help treat prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes can also help prevent them:
Eat healthy foods – Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Strive for variety to prevent boredom.
Get more physical activity – Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride your bike. Swim laps. If you can’t fit in a long workout, break it up into smaller sessions spread throughout the day.
Lose excess Weight – If you’re overweight, losing even 7 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem.
Important – Have your blood sugar checked at least once a year to check that you haven’t developed type 2 diabetes.