November is celebrated as Diabetes Awareness Month. The month sheds a light on the risk and gravity of diabetes as well as how individuals can manage diabetes.
When we eat, the pancreas produces insulin to allow the glucose, consumed from the food, to run through the bloodstream.
Diabetes is a chronic condition through which the pancreas either produces an excessive amount of insulin and does not know how to manage it or does not produce enough insulin, which leads to the glucose in the body building up and in turn leading to diabetes.
According to Dr Yasmeen Ajaz, Specialist Endocrinologist at Medcare Hospital Al Safa, uncontrolled diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys, heart, blood vessels, eyes and nerves.
With diabetes, the risk for heart attacks and strokes increases, blood flow is reduced and can lead to limb amputation and foot ulcers, kidney failure as well as blindness can take place.
2.6% of blindness in the world is caused by diabetes.
Diabetes can be noticed through some changes including dry mouth, unexplained weight loss, being extremely thirsty, excessive urination, blurry vision and tingling sensation and pain at night, as mentioned by Dr Nisrine Al Ghazal, Specialist Endocrinologist at Mediclinic Middle East.
In order to detect if a person has diabetes, testing is required. Individuals with normal glucose levels can test every three years, results that are on the border, need to test every one or two years and individuals diagnosed with diabetes, need to get tested as recommended by their doctor.
According to Dr Seema Anand, Specialist Internal Medicine at Dubai London Clinic, certain individuals in risk categories are also more susceptible to developing diabetes including:
- People with hypertension
- Individuals that have first degree relatives with diabetes
- People with a history of cardiovascular diseases
- Individuals from a high-risk ethnicity
- HDL cholesterol with levels lower than 35mg/dL and triglyceride level greater 250mg/dL
- Individuals that are overweight
- People with polycystic ovary syndrome
- Living a sedentary life
- Patients with prediabetes
- Other clinical conditions associated with insulin resistance
- People diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus
- People aged 45 and above
Testing needs to be done at least at a three-year interval but based on the results as well as the risk status, testing should be done after consultation from the doctor.
With diabetes, the various types determine the severity of the disease, according to Dr Nisrine Al Ghazal, Specialist Endocrinologist at Mediclinic Middle East.
- Type 1 Diabetes takes place when the auto-immune process affects the pancreas ability to produce insulin.
- Type 2 Diabetes is caused when there is an inefficiency or resistance to insulin. Additionally, genetic predisposition, a high carbohydrate diet and a sedentary lifestyle can cause resistance to insulin.
- Gestational Diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy and can cause insulin resistance.
- Diabetes can also be caused by other diseases of the pancreas or through certain medications.
In order to get ahead of diabetes, it is key to adopt a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle, as mentioned by Jamie Richards, Clinical Psychoneuroimmunologist and Chief Wellbeing Officer at Valeo.
A Mediterranean diet is recommended as it mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, extra virgin olive oil, fish and other minimally processed food, all that is rich in unsaturated fats, complex carbohydrates and fibres.
For individuals with diabetes, real food is advised with boxed, packaged, fried, fizzy and food from tins avoided.
To get ahead of diabetes, it is important to look out for the warning signs, make sure to get regular checks and get tested every three years if not in the high-risk categories.