In 2015, there was over 1 million recorded cases of diabetes in the UAE, which equates to approximately 14.6% of the UAE adult population. It is a disease not to be taken lightly, because while it can be managed through lifestyle modification and pharmaceutical support, it is the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure in adults, and is the seventh leading cause of death in the US. To reduce your risk of developing diabetes, simple lifestyle changes are all that is needed to dramatically reduce your risk. These changes are very similar to the lifestyle modifications required of diabetic patients, and can be summed up as follows:
- Reduce your weight to be within the heathy weight range;
- Get active;
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet free of processed, and sugary foods; and
- Quit smoking.
Firstly, what is diabetes? Put simply, it is a medical condition which occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, which is a hormone that moves glucose (a simple sugar) into your cells to give you energy. If the glucose doesn’t transfer to your cells, it stays in your blood stream, giving you a high blood glucose level. Over time, having a high blood glucose level damages nerves and blood vessels, and commonly leads to heart disease, stroke, blindness, organ failure, infections and limb amputations. Untreated diabetes is life threatening.
Types of Diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes; Type 1, Type 2 and gestational.
Type 1: This form of diabetes generally manifests at a young age and was previously called juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes means that the pancreas has stopped producing insulin, which the body uses to break sugars and starches into glucose, which is then used for energy. Managing type 1 diabetes and learning to change your lifestyle accordingly, especially for younger patients, is difficult. While diabetes management is a lifelong task for type 1 sufferers, the good news is that type 1 diabetesis manageable through diet, exercise, insulin injections and a strong support network.
Type 2: This is the most common form of diabetes and is also referred to as hyperglycaemia. Type 2 diabetes means that your while your pancreas still produces insulin naturally, it either fails to regulate and produce the appropriate amount of insulin necessary to maintain blood glucose levels, or the body doesn’t recognise the insulin. Depending on the severity of your type 2 diabetes will depend on the lifestyle management requirements. Some type 2 sufferers can manage their diabetes with diet and exercise modifications alone, while others may require pharmaceutical support through oral pills or insulin injections.
Gestational Diabetes: Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, and is more common than you might think (as high as 9.2% according to the American Diabetes Association). A diagnosis of gestational diabetes does not necessarily mean you will become diabetic after giving birth. Diabetes management should be commenced promptly, and will be guided by your treating physician. It requires expectant mothers to follow strict guidelines to ensure the best chance of a healthy baby is achieved.
Common symptoms which may suggest diabetes or pre-diabetes (a stage where your blood glucose levels are above normal levels but not high enough to be diabetic) are as follows:
- Loss of body weight with-out trying;
- Frequent urination;
- Extreme thirst;
- Sores that take a long time to heal;
- Loss of feeling or a tingling in the feet; and
- Blurry eyesight.
Those at risk may experience some or all of the above symptoms, or none at all.
The take-home message for those reading this blog is simple. Take care of your health and be aware of the risks. Do your research, and if you suspect you may be at risk of developing diabetes, see your doctor for a simple blood test.
International Diabetes Federation, http://www.idf.org/membership/mena/united-arab-emirates
Mayo Clinic – Prediabetes, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prediabetes/basics/definition/con-20024420