This November 14, we observed World Diabetes Day with the theme: “Access to Diabetes Care: If Not Now, When?” which aims to promote awareness about Diabetes risks, prevention and treatment and to improve access to Diabetes care around the world. In the Philippines, Diabetes is the 4th leading cause of death as of 2020 with heart disease as the top 1. This could be attributed to many health and environmental factors that can be prevented or addressed.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disorder in the way the body uses glucose or sugar that cells need for energy. Sugar in the blood is absorbed by the cells through the hormone insulin. When there is not enough insulin, sugar builds up in the blood and may lead to elevated blood sugar which may cause complications when left untreated. There are 2 types of Diabetes:
1. Type 1 Diabetes - The problem is in the pancreas or the organ in the abdomen that normally produces insulin. Autoimmune disorders may target this organ and prevent it from producing insulin.
2. Type 2 Diabetes - An acquired diabetes due to poor diet and lifestyle that causes the body to stop responding to normal or high levels of insulin. This may overwork the pancreas in the long run and may lead to damage that would cause it to produce little to no insulin.
Who is at-risk of developing Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that is developed over time by individuals with increased risk factors, poor diet and lifestyle and other comorbidities. The following are the factors that may increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes:
1. Family history and race (Genetics). Individuals with a family history of Diabetes from a first degree relative (parents or sibling) have 5 to 10 times higher risk of developing Diabetes in their lifetime. The likelihood is also higher in certain ethnic groups such as Hispanic, African and Asian descent.
2. Older age. Individuals who are 40 years old and above have an increased risk of developing Diabetes and this increases as they get older.
3. Male sex. Studies have shown that the male sex have a greater risk due to differences in body composition as compared to females and other lifestyle related factors and comorbidities.
4. Lifestyle factors: Physical Inactivity and Obesity. Eating an unhealthy diet and not getting enough exercise can lead to weight gain, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
5. Pregnancy. Pregnant women are at risk of developing gestational diabetes due to hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy, but it usually resolves after pregnancy. Women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
What are the early symptoms of Diabetes?
Most individuals do not experience symptoms and would not know they have Diabetes unless they are screened for Diabetes. However, for some individuals, they experience:
● Needing to urinate frequently even at night
● Feeling thirsty or hungry more than before
● Blurred vision
● Easy fatigability
If you have the above-mentioned risk factors and the symptoms mentioned - you may consider getting screened for Diabetes. Early screening methods include blood tests such as Random Blood Sugar, Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) and HbA1c. Your doctor may also request for a Lipid Panel and will also screen for Hypertension through Blood Pressure measurement.
How can Diabetes be prevented?
First, it is important to consider non-modifiable risk factors such as family history, age and sex for early awareness of your baseline Diabetes risk. Second is to lower or minimize the modifiable risk factors such as diet and physical activity and early management of comorbid conditions such as Obesity, Dyslipidemia or high cholesterol and Hypertension. Individuals diagnosed with “Pre-diabetes” can still be reversed through a well-planned personal nutrition program and including physical activity of at least 30 minutes per day. If you are overweight or obese, weight reduction can greatly improve your health status and prevent diabetes. For individuals who are already “Diabetic” will also be managed through diet and exercise with first line antidiabetic medications such as Metformin.
In general, Diabetes is a chronic non-communicable disease that develops due to many factors such as diet and lifestyle. This can be prevented by practicing healthy eating and by being physically active. If you have other health concerns, consult your doctor for early screening, proper assessment and guidance.
• Cudis, C. (2021). Diabetes among top killer diseases in PH. Republic of the Philippines Philippine News Agency. Date Accessed 20 November 2021. Retrieved from https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1139440
• Wexler, D.J. (2021). Patient education: Type 2 diabetes: Overview (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. Date Accessed 20 November 2021. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/type-2-diabetes-overview-beyond-the-basics?search=diabetes%20patient%20education&topicRef=15402&source=see_link#topicContent