Did you know that the number of people with diabetes diagnoses is expected to reach almost 600 million within the next 20 years? Here’s all you need to know.
Diabetes is one of the most challenging health problems of the 21st Century. As one of the most common non-communicable diseases, it is the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in most high-income countries. Diabetes is also a growing epidemic in many economically developing and newly industrialised countries.
- Around 382 million people currently live with diabetes across the world. Most of these people are between the ages of 40 and 59; 80% live in low and middle-income countries.
- Another 316 million people with impaired glucose tolerance are at high risk of being diagnosed by 2035.
- Every year, over 5 million people die from complications associated with the illness. Close to half have not been diagnosed with the disease.
- 76% of diabetes-related deaths in Africa are recorded in people under the age of 60.
- Nigeria has the highest diabetes prevalence in Africa, with 9.9 million undiagnosed cases. South Africa follows closely behind with a total of 2.6 million.
- Type 2 diabetes is on the rise. In particular, 17% of women who gave birth in 2013 had some form of high blood-glucose during their pregnancies. Gestational diabetes predisposes children with developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
- In 2013 alone, more than 79 000 children developed type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes is a complex disorder that affects the break down of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. A deficiency or complete lack of the hormone, insulin – secreted by the pancreas – or a resistance to insulin cause the disease.
Insulin allows glucose from food to enter the body’s cells where it can be converted to energy. The body’s muscles and tissues need this converted energy to function.
Diabetes prevents the proper absorption of glucose, so the glucose remains circulating in the blood, damaging body tissues over time, in turn, causes disabling and life-threatening health complications.
- Type 1: With this type of diabetes, little to no insulin is produced as a result of a very sudden onset destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This type usually occurs in children or young adults and often develops suddenly.
Symptoms include abnormal thirst, a dry mouth, frequent urination, lack of energy, extreme fatigue, constant hunger, sudden weight loss, slow-healing wounds, recurrent infections and blurred vision. Insulin therapy is required to treat it.
- Type 2: An estimated 90% of diagnosed cases are type 2 diabetes. This type is most often associated with obesity and is characterised by insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency. Its progressive nature often requires insulin treatment.
Risk factors include obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, advancing age, family history, ethnicity and high blood-glucose during pregnancy. This type occurs in both adults and children.
- Gestational: This type appears during pregnancy and can lead to some serious health risks for both mother and child. Gestational diabetes increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Diabetes is not a stand-alone disease
Diabetes increases the risk of further health complications and life-threatening conditions — which can affect the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves — because of consistently high blood-glucose levels.
Reduce your risk
Prevention is better than cure. There is no ‘off day’ after being diagnosed with diabetes. Reducing your risk means making definitive lifestyle changes.
- Count your calories and maintain a healthy intake of specific foods and beverages.
- Check your portion sizes. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with veggies or salad, with the remainder being divided between protein and starchy carbohydrates.
- Cut back on salt, sugar and alcohol.
- Reduce your saturated fat intake.
- Eat your five a day. Fruit and veggies will nourish your body with the vitamins, minerals and fibre it needs.
- Eat more fish and chicken. They’re rich in omega-3 (polyunsaturated fat).
- Plan your meals. Avoid skipping meals and space your breakfast, lunch and dinner meals through the day, with two healthy snacks in between.
- Eat healthy carbohydrates. Choose foods with a low glycaemic index (GI).
- Make smarter food choices. Eat or drink at least two servings of low-fat dairy products a day and buy bread products with at least 3g of fibre and 3g of protein per serving. These types of complex carbohydrates slow down the absorption of glucose and decrease possible insulin rises.
- Consider magnesium. Studies have shown that magnesium, found in nuts, green leafy vegetables and avocados, reduces the risk of diabetes by about 10%.
- Take cinnamon supplements. These are known to help blood-glucose levels drop.
- Walk more. Moderate exercise leads to better control of blood sugar.