Learn How to Discover, Prevent and Manage Diabetes
Diabetes is a condition that affects thousands of Indians every year. According to the International Diabetic Federation (IDF), India, about 425 million people have diabetes in the world out of which 82 million people are from the South East Asian Region. By 2045, this will rise to 151 million. In India, over 72.946.400 cases of diabetes were reported in 2017.
Diabetes is not a disease that just affects blood sugar levels. Over the years, this disease damages various other organs in the human body, especially the eyes, kidneys and feet apart from the heart and blood vessels, leading to severe complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, stroke, complex foot infections, etc.
When the level of blood glucose gets higher than normal, it gives rise to a condition called diabetes. The food we eat is converted into glucose (simple form of sugar) in our body to provide energy for work. Pancreas, an organ lying close to our stomach, secretes a hormone called insulin, which helps the glucose to be stored in our body cells. Diabetes is the result of the body’ inability to produce and/or use insulin.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes – In type 1 diabetes the body ceases to produce or produces less insulin to regulate the level of blood glucose. It was earlier called juvenile onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM). People suffering from types 1 diabetes need insulin treatment on a daily basis to sustain life.
Type 2 Diabetes – Type 2 diabetes, also referred to as insulin resistance, is a condition where the pancreas secretes enough insulin, but the body is unable to use the insulin. It was earlier called Adult onset diabetes or Non-insulin dependent mellitus (NIDDM). It rarely occurs at a young age. Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with proper exercise, diet, and weight loss.
Gestational diabetes – Gestational diabetes usually occurs in women during the second half of pregnancy. It can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby, if care is not taken. Gestational diabetes usually disappears after delivery. Women suffering from this type of diabetes in pregnancy have more chances of getting type 2 diabetes in the later years of their lives.
Type 1 diabetes
In type 1 diabetes, doctors do not know what causes type 1 diabetes exactly. Due to some reason, the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells mistakenly in the pancreas. In some people, genes may play a role. It is also possible that some virus sets off the immune system attack.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the result of a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Being obese or overweight raises the risk too. Having extra weight, especially in the belly, makes thd cells more resistant to the effects of insulin on the blood sugar. This condition may run in families. Family members share genes that make them more vulnerable to get type 2 diabetes and to be overweight.
Women who are overweight when they get pregnant or who gain too much weight during their pregnancy are more vulnerable to get gestational diabetes.
As per the IDF, one in every two people with diabetes is undiagnosed. Knowing the signs and symptoms and early treatment is key to protect, prevent or delay life-threatening complications.
Symptoms of Diabetes include:
- Slow recovery from an injury
- Recurrent infections
- Frequent urination
- Excessive hunger and thirst
- Blurred vision
- Intense hunger
- Sudden weight loss
- Numbness of hands and feet
General Myths about Diabetes
It is vital to understand both the myths as well as the realities of diabetes in order to reduce the risk of developing this lethal disease.
Often, people believe that eating too much sugar can cause diabetes. This may not be true. A person must be susceptible to the condition so as to develop diabetes. Similarly, contrary to the popular belief, being overweight cannot be the only reason for developing diabetes. Obesity is only one risk factor (along with genetic factor) for developing the disease. While eating too much sugar and obesity (BMI of over 35) are not ideal for health, neither of the factors alone is responsible for causing diabetes.
Most of the people also mistakenly believe that only older people are at risk of developing diabetes. This is not true. In fact, children as small as five years are currently being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Earlier it was believed that children only suffer from type 1 diabetes. But, Type 2 diabetes is currently rising amongst children owing to poor lifestyle habits, unhealthy diets and less or no physical activity.
Another common misconception is that persons suffering from diabetes have to take insulin regularly. This can only be true for Type 1 diabetes patients. Most people with type 2 diabetes are able to control their condition through exercise, simple medications and diet.
Diabetes is more prevalent these days compared to the past. It occurs in all age groups but is most commonly diagnosed in obese people in their middle or older age. However, diabetes can be managed successfully, minimizing the complications and allowing diabetic patients to live a normal and active life.
Treatment for all types of diabetes includes monitoring of blood sugar levels regularly, following a balanced healthy diet as well as doing regular exercises recommended by your doctor. Smokers have to give up smoking and strictly adhere to your doctor’s advice to prevent, monitor and treat any co-existing medical conditions, like high cholesterol and hypertension.
While people diagnosed with diabetes have to necessarily change their lifestyle, it does not essentially mean that diabetic patients require a heavily restricted diet. Having the right types of foods can both help lose excess weight and control blood sugar.
Carb counting is the most vital part of eating for managing type 2 diabetes. A dietitian can help in understanding how many grams of carbohydrates can be consumed at each meal.
To keep blood sugar levels steady, diets rich in the following are recommended:
- Whole grains
- Lean protein such as poultry and fish
- Healthy fats like olive oil and nuts
Diagnostic Tests for Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes and Pre-diabetes
Glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C) Test: This blood test does not require fasting. It indicates an individual’s average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It measures the percentage of blood sugar linked to hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells).
The higher your blood sugar levels, the more hemoglobin attached with sugar. An A1C level of 6.5 percent or greater on two separate tests shows that you have diabetes. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 percent shows you have pre-diabetes. Below 5.7 is normal.
Random blood sugar test. In this, blood sample is taken at a random time. Irrespective of when you had your last meal, a random blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) — 11.1 mmol/L (millimoles per liter) — or higher suggests diabetes.
Fasting blood sugar test. Blood sample is taken after an overnight fast. Fasting blood sugar level below 100 5.6 mmol/L (mg/dL) is normal; from 5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L (100 to 125 mg/dL) is considered pre-diabetes and if it is 7 mmol/L (126 mg/dL) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes.
Oral glucose tolerance test. In this test, an individual fasts overnight, and the fasting blood sugar level is measured. Then, he/she is made to drink a sugary liquid, and blood sugar levels are tested periodically for the next two hours.
Blood sugar level below 7.8 mmol/L (140 mg/dL) is normal, while a reading of more than 11.1 mmol/L (200 mg/dL) after two hours indicates diabetes. A reading between 7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L (140 and 199 mg/dL) indicates pre-diabetes