“On the occasion of World Health Day 2016, WHO issues a call for action on diabetes, drawing attention to the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease. “
Diabetes is a serious, chronic (long-term) disease that occurs either when the pancreas (an organ in your body) does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar, or glucose), or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
Insulin is used by the body to help move sugar from the blood into the cells of the body, where the sugar is converted into energy. So when insulin is not there or is not well used, the level of sugar in the blood gets high.
There are three types of diabetes – Type 1, Type 2 and Gestational.
This occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The pancreas therefore is unable to make insulin. Someone with Type 1 diabetes therefore has to regularly inject insulin into their body.
The pancreas does make insulin, but the insulin is either not enough, or the body does not use it well. Type 2 diabetes is developed largely as a result of having excess body weight (being overweight) and lack of physical activity.
This is when some (between about 2% and 10%) pregnant women have high levels of sugar in the blood. This is caused by hormones produced during pregnancy that cause the cells of the body to be resistant to insulin, and therefore the insulin does not work as effectively as before.
Usually, blood sugar levels return to normal within six weeks of childbirth. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
The Bad News
This isn’t really news but here we go:
- The cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown. It is not known what causes the immune system to attack the cells in the pancreas.
- Diabetes can lead to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, leg amputation, vision loss (blindness) and nerve damage.
The Good News
This isn’t news either, but here it is:
- Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults (before the age of 20), so if you have passed those stages, you’re probably safe from Type 1.
- Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through physical activity and a healthy diet.
- Most people who have diabetes have (the preventable) Type 2 diabetes.
- Even if you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is possible to prevent or reduce or delay the effects of diabetes.
What To Do
“To help prevent type 2 diabetes and its complications, people should:
achieve and maintain healthy body weight;
be physically active – at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days. More activity is required for weight control;
eat a healthy diet, avoiding sugar and saturated fats intake; and
avoid tobacco use – smoking increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your doctor about a suitable treatment and management plan, and follow it! You don’t want the complications listed above, so take steps to prevent them. The plan will probably involve decisions about what you eat and engaging in physical activity on a regular basis.
You can read your country profile by WHO with regards to diabetes here.