Saturday, February 23, 2013

Health Feature - Diabetes: A Worldwide Epidemic on the Rise

by Lily McCann
Checking blood sugar levels is important in controlling Diabetes
It is rather ironic that many people think of diabetes as a disease which affects one or two people they know: that friend who has to check his/her glucose level before dining at a restaurant, that colleague who undergoes dialysis treatment. 

Diabetes is, in fact, a global epidemic, affecting some 285 million people worldwide. A further seven million people develop the disease every year and by the year 2030, some 438 million people are expected to be diabetics.
Click on map to see details in new, larger window
 The problem affects public health systems to the same devastating effect, with 12 per cent of all health expenditure going to this disease. Far from being a rare occurrence, diabetes is a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of children and adults alike, poised to take countless lives over the next few years.

Type 1, Type 2 or Gestational Diabetes?

Over nine million Canadians are currently diabetics or pre-diabetics. Of these, only five to 10 per cent have Type 1 diabetes, where the body makes little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes is irreversible and must be treated with daily insulin injections or with an insulin pump.

In Type 2 diabetes, either insufficient amounts of insulin are produced, or the individual suffers from insulin resistance. In gestational diabetes, the body fails to use insulin properly. However, the problem usually goes away when the pregnancy is over.

Type 2 Diabetes: The First of Many Serious Conditions

As if the thought of having to take daily medication or receive insulin injections wasn’t scary enough, diabetes can have tremendously serious consequences, including blindness, heart disease, stroke, reduced blood supply to limbs (which can lead to amputation), nerve damage, and erectile dysfunction.

What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

The following are contributing factors:
  • Obesity and fat distribution: It is estimated that the number of obese people will rise to nearly two billion by 2030 and this seriously raises the risk of diabetes. Having a tendency to store fat primarily in the abdominal area is an additional risk factor.
  • Lack of physical activity: Every two-hour/day increment of the time spent watching television increases the risk of diabetes by 14%. Just taking a brisk walk for an hour a day, on the other hand is associated with a 34% risk reduction.
  • Smoking: Smokers have a 45% increased chance of contracting diabetes. The risk grows in proportion to the number of cigarettes smoked.
  • Alcohol use: Moderate drinking (one to two drinks a day) reduces the risk of diabetes by 30-40%, compared to drinking heavily or abstaining.
  • Genetic Factors: Around 40 genetic variants have been associated with Type 2 diabetes, but they do not add significantly to the clinical prediction of the disease beyond traditional risk factors such as having a family history of diabetes.
  • Age: Those aged over 40 are at an increased risk.
  • Gestational diabetes: Simply having had gestational diabetes increases a woman’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life, as does having had a baby weighing over 9 pounds.
Keeping Type 2 Diabetes at Bay

A large-scale study in the US indicates that those with a high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes can reduce their risk by 31% by taking the prescription drug, Metformin and making lifestyle changes. More importantly, the risk can be reduced by an impressive 58% through lifestyle changes alone.

The proof of the pudding when it comes to the importance of dietary changes are the many forums for diabetics, where members are reporting that they have been able to stop taking medication by simply following a low carbohydrate, vegetarian or vegan diet. 

What all these diets have in common is that they are low in sugar and processed grains. Starches, processed foods and sugary drinks are poison for diabetics, since they release too much glucose into the bloodstream, leading to the over-production of insulin. This process causes cells to become insulin-resistant.

Balancing the body’s levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) is also key, if inflammation is to be kept to a minimum. Inflammation is a contributing factor to the onset of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and while the typical Canadian consumes an excess of Omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn and soybean and most processed foods), their diet is often lacking in Omega-3 fats (found in cold water fish and flax seeds). 

Those who do not consume oily fish regularly should consider a supplement like hemp seed oil to promote the correct balance of EFAs. Hemp seed oil also alleviates the tingling and numbness in the extremities encountered by many diabetics. It is likewise important to incorporate daily exercise (a blend of cardiovascular and strength exercises are ideal) into one’s daily routine to boost circulation and keep blood sugar at safe levels.

Health Checks: A Vital Ally

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, you will need to have regular checks, including blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol level measurement, retinal screening, foot and leg checks, kidney function tests (urine and blood), weight testing and a smoking status check. 

Ask your doctor for a personalised care plan, to ensure you are able to reach specific goals in all these areas.

Lily McCann is a journalist who writes for KWIKMED

No comments:

Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai