World Diabetes Day is celebrated annually on 14 November.
Diabetes has become highly prevalent in daily life, and the month of November is dedicated to raising awareness of the issue, in order to help tackle and manage it in advance.
The chronic health condition, once diagnosed, can be life-long and can affect the quality of a person's life.
Over time, diabetes has become a growing concern as 1 out of 5 people are expected to have diabetes in the UAE, and by 2040, the number is expected to double.
Although dealing with diabetes can seem daunting, when changes are made to a lifestyle, and proper control measures are taken, it can reduce the complications and effects on daily life.
According to Dr Nisrine Al Ghazal, MD in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Mediclinic Dubai Mall and Al Sufooh said, "Diabetes is a disorder of blood sugar control whereby there is either deficiency (diabetes type 1) or resistance (diabetes type 2) to insulin. Insulin being the hormone that counteracts sugar excursions. It is characterised by higher than normal sugar levels in the blood which in turn affects the vessels if left untreated or uncontrolled."
Once diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, regular insulin shots are required for the person to survive.
However, individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and people with prediabetics, which are people that are on the borderline of having diabetes, need to make rigid changes to their lifestyle, lose weight and eat healthy, to keep it in check.
This may not be the same circumstance for everyone, with some requiring medication to maintain their blood sugar levels.
Women that are pregnant, can also find themselves diagnosed with gestational diabetes, without having been diagnosed with diabetes before.
Although it is known to stop once the baby is born, the mother as well as the child are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes at a later stage.
Dr Nisrine Al Ghazal of Mediclinic Dubai Mall and Al Sufooh added, "Type 1 diabetes would need insulin to control the symptoms and prevent complications. Type 2 diabetes, once diagnosed, can be reversed without medications in some but not all individuals. The steps for reversals include aggressive lifestyle modifications with calorie-restricted diets and exercise."
Diabetes prior was most common in older people, although due to changes in dietary needs, lifestyle and environment, the effects of diabetes can also be seen in younger children and teenagers.
Although, individuals that are most susceptible to diabetes, as mentioned by Dr Sheena Cherry, Specialist in Internal Medicine at Emirates Hospital, are:
- People that are obese or overweight
- People aged 45 years and above
- Genetic preponderance where parents or grandparents are diabetic
- South Asian, African-Caribbean and Black-African ethnicities
- Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Sedentary lifestyle with high-calorie food
One of the key ways to get ahead of diabetes is to get regular blood work done.
Through the reports taken, individuals that are on the verge of being diagnosed with diabetes will be able to make changes to their life, which will, in turn, get their sugar levels in control.
Although, once the sugar levels are in control, it is essential to remember to keep them maintained, as around 37% of people with prediabetics, end up being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within four years.
Some of the common symptoms of diabetes, as advised by Dr Sheena Cherry of Emirates Hospital, are:
- Feeling thirsty more frequently
- Feeling tired and weak
- Urinating more frequently, especially at night
- Having slow-healing wounds
- Recurrent gum infection
- Recurrent skin and vaginal infection
- Tingling needles and pin sensation in hands and feet
- Blurry vision
As there is no cure for diabetes, it is essential to be mindful and always seek medical assistance, if symptoms are felt.
However, people that are looking to make a change to their lifestyle as a precautionary measure or due to family history can monitor and prevent diabetes in two crucial ways:
Healthy eating: Food provides nourishment for the body, but over time, with the surge in consumption of junk food and unhealthy food options, a balanced meal is no longer consumed. Dr Nisrine Al Ghazal of Mediclinic Dubai Mall and Al Sufooh said that, "Individuals with a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, should consume a diet low in carbohydrates, which will keep the pancreas 'more rested' and delay the onset of diabetes."
Additionally, Dr Sheena Cherry of Emirates Hospital advised to, "Drink water as your primary beverage as it will limit your high sugar intake, minimise the intake of processed food and to consume probiotics daily as it can keep your gut healthy, helping in proper glucose metabolism."
Exercise regularly: As we live a sedentary lifestyle and do not incorporate as much physical exercise into our daily activities, it takes a toll on our well-being and can lead to ailments like diabetes, lethargy and more. Dr Sheena Cherry of Emirates Hospital mentioned that, "It is important to lose excess weight, especially the visceral fat in the midsection and around the abdomen, as it is associated with high insulin resistance, inflammation, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes."
As advised by Dr Nisrine Al Ghazal of Mediclinic Dubai Mall and Al Sufooh, "To avoid type 2 diabetes and one must maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and be active."
Diabetes is a disease, but the risks can be reduced and kept in control if preventive measures are taken earlier on.
This November, remind your family members and friends and encourage them to get regular checkups done to regulate sugar levels.
A healthy lifestyle and balanced diet will definitely increase the standard of living, and by motivating one another to stay fit and eat healthy, diabetes can be prevented.