Diabetes- What can be done to stop the scourge?
By Charles Hopkins
Published 09/20/2007 | Health
Diabetes is a chronic incurable disease that has reached almost
epidemic proportions today and continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
What's even scarier is that symptoms of diabetes are easy to miss and
many sufferers may not even know they have the disease. As a result it
is likely that the already frightening statistics actually
underestimate the true extent of the problem.
Diabetics are unable to produce sufficient insulin or are unable to
effectively use insulin. This leads to elevated levels of Blood
There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes - This is also known as insulin dependent diabetes
since treatment usually involves insulin injections. It is also known
as juvenile diabetes as it usually strikes adolescents and children. In
this type of diabetes the cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the
immune system as a result of an autoimmune response and are therefore
unable to produce insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes - also know as Non-insulin Dependent Diabetes
Mellitus. Here the patient's pancreas is able to produce insulin but
the cells are unable to effectively use it to control levels of blood
sugar. Over 90% of all diabetics suffer from type 2 diabetes. Although
there is much yet to be learned about diabetes and its causes it is
clear that diabetes type 2 is very much related to lifestyle.
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:
Ageing - Type 2 diabetes is also referred to as adult onset
diabetes and incidence increases with age usually striking after the
age of 40.
Obesity - Being overweight increases risk of diabetes greatly
especially if combined with High Blood pressure (Hypertension), low
levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and high levels of bad (LDL)
Family member with diabetes - A sibling or parent with diabetes increases your chances considerably.
Certain ethnic groups have a much higher incidence of diabetes.
Native Americans have a higher incidence than the general population,
for instance the Pima Indians of Arizona have a rate over 10 times
higher than the general US population. Asian and Pacific Islanders,
African Americans and Hispanics are also more likely to contract
History of gestational diabetes or delivering a high birth weight
baby also increases risk. Gestational diabetes is a temporary state
where a woman may display symptoms of diabetes during pregnancy.
So what can be done to avoid type 2 diabetes?
Although genes and heredity do play a part in diabetes it is clear
that lifestyle factors play a significant role. More sedentary
lifestyles coupled with high fat "fast food" diets of the developed
world are the primary cause of the huge increase in diabetes in recent
years. Changing to a healthy diet and reducing weight will
significantly reduce risk of diabetes. It is recommended that not more
than 30% of total daily calories should come from fat and saturated
fats should not exceed 10% of daily intake. 50 to 60% of daily calories
should come from carbohydrates and fiber intake should be at least 20
grams per day.
Even moderate levels of regular physical activity can help reduce
risk. While exercise regimens should be based on individual needs and
fitness levels as a general rule 30 minutes of moderate exercise five
times a week will have multiple benefits in reducing weight as well as
blood pressure and cholesterol.
Diet and appropriate physical exercise, a healthy balanced
lifestyle and avoidance of stress are without doubt the most effective
means of avoiding diabetes.
Where preventative measures come too late or are not effective
medication may be required. In the case of Type 1 diabetes since the
body is no longer able to produce insulin, insulin replacement therapy
usually in the form of regular injections will be inevitable.
However, in the case of non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2) a
variety of treatment options are available. Where blood glucose levels
are not very high patients may be able to maintain control through
carefully monitored diet and exercise. In other cases a wide range of
oral medications are available. However, each of these medications has
its own side effects and their efficacy will diminish over time
requiring higher doses and or other drugs in order to maintain
effective control of blood glucose levels. They may eventually need to
be replaced with insulin therapy.
The effects of diabetes can be far reaching affecting almost every
organ in the body, chief among them being increased risk of
cardiovascular disease, retinopathy which could result in blindness,
neuropathy affecting the nervous system. Given that there is currently
no cure for diabetes this is clearly an instance where prevention is