Diabetes – A Global Epidemic

Reading Time: 7 mins

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of research at uni, especially in regards to diabetes. We hear the word diabetes a lot, but how many people know what it actually is? I would say for every 4-5 people I speak to, at least 1 or more of them will know of diabetes but not know what it actually is. It’s quite sad that almost everyone knows someone who has or is affected by diabetes.

Diabetes is becoming increasing prevalent in the modern world and more and more kids are getting the chronic disease. Not only is the disease debilitating to the individual, it also affects their finance and lifestyle tremendously. By 2030, the World Health Organisation predict that diabetes will rise to become the 7th leading cause of death globally.  In 2014, there were 422 million people diagnosed with diabetes and the disease is on the rise. Personally I blame our society for the rise of this disease, our fast food lifestyle combined with the abundance of processed foods and lack of nutrients all contribute to this disease.

So what is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin/ or the body cannot properly utilise the insulin to effectively and efficiently assist in the metabolism of glucose (the end form of carbohydrate breakdown). The first signs of diabetes is usually hyperglycaemia or a higher than normal blood glucose reading. If you haven’t checked your blood glucose in a while, I recommend getting a blood test and consulting your doctor for further advice.

Diabetes comes in various forms, all of which are different diseases in itself, what are they?

Currently there are 4 types of diabetes:

Type I Diabetes:  An auto-immune disease of currently unknown origin (possibly genetic) with no current cure. It results in the death of beta-cells in the pancreas which secrete insulin, with beta-cells being the only cells that secrete insulin in the body, the death of said cells result in low to no insulin secreted and thus no control of blood glucose levels resulting in inflammation and in severe cases death. People with Type I Diabetes are usually insulin dependent and inject insulin when needed. 

Type II Diabetes: The result of many lifestyle factors which ultimately lead to the ineffective use of insulin by the body. Experts largely contribute the rise of Type 2 Diabetes to excess bodyweight and physical inactivity. Type II Diabetes makes up the majority of diabetes sufferers globally, diagnosis usually occurs several years after the onset of the disease – so it’s usually too late by the time the doctors have diagnosed the disease.

Type III Diabetes: The new proposed name for Alzheimer’s disease, a debilitating disease of the brain where it shrinks and causes memory loss and severe mental damage. This is postulated to be the result of impaired insulin sensitivity in the brain.

Gestational Diabetes: During pregnancy, hyperglycaemia may occur. Clinically blood glucose levels are elevated but not to the point where it is clinically diagnosed as being diabetic, this increases the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery. The result of gestational diabetes is that both the parent and child are at higher risk of Diabetes Type II in the future.

WHO Diabetes Infographic
WHO Diabetes Infographic

So Now that you know about diabetes, how do we prevent it? How do we cure it? How do we personally minimise our risk of getting diabetes?

Unfortunately there is no current cure to diabetes, especially for Diabetes Type I. Recently we discussed possible methods to cure Diabetes Type I at uni and my cohort developed certain scientific methods to help cure the disease, so I’m hoping that a cure won’t be too far down the track! With the advancements in science and technology, I have high hopes that we may find a plausible solution soon.

However, not all hope is lost. Most Diabetes Type II sufferers can reverse the effect of high blood glucose before they become clinically diagnosed with diabetes. Remember diagnosis usually occurs years after your blood glucose has been rising, at the point of diagnosis, your insulin sensitivity has already been tanked. So what’s the best solution if you want to avoid Diabetes Type II? Prior to diagnosis, you still have a great chance to either avoid it or minimise the chances significantly. Here are my five steps to Diabetes avoidance and control:

  1. Eat a Low GI Diet (Here are some Low GI certified foods from the local supermarkets).
  2. Moderate level of exercise consistently (30-45minutes daily if possible – sample workouts).
  3. Avoid processed foods, sugars and saturated fats.
  4. ALWAYS check food nutrition labels for ingredients and macronutrients.
  5. AVOID smoking.

Always remember that you are in control of your health and that your lifestyle is a commitment and investment that will always pay back extremely high dividends.

Always consult a medical professional for more health advice if you are concerned for your wellbeing.

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